What’s Fishing In Washington: November 2013

Those hard-working folks at the WDFW Weekender highlight a ton of fishing opportunities to be had around the state, including big numbers of rainbow trout going into Westside lakes.

Read on for details!

North Puget Sound

Anglers are still finding coho in the region’s rivers, but most of the action will shift to steelhead, blackmouth and chum in November. On Puget Sound, the late-season crab fishery is under way and more marine areas are scheduled to open for chinook.

Beginning Nov. 1, blackmouth salmon fishing gets underway in marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet). Anglers fishing those marine areas, as well as Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton Area), have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook. Anglers are reminded that Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) closes to salmon retention Nov. 1.

Good bets for blackmouth in the month ahead include Useless Bay, Possession Bar and West Point, said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Blackmouth are resident Puget Sound chinook salmon, available for harvest in the winter months.

Anglers support the blackmouth winter chinook fishery through their license purchase, a portion of which goes to the Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Fund. The fund currently supports a variety of recreational fishing opportunities through the release of more than one million yearling and almost nine million sub-yearling chinook each year.

As October came to a close, saltwater anglers were also reeling in increasing numbers of chunky chum salmon. Good bets in coming weeks include Point No Point off the north end of the Kitsap Peninsula and Possession Bar south of Whidbey Island.

Before heading out, anglers might want check creel reports for information on catch and effort in Puget Sound. Recreational fishery samplers with the department collect the information each week at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound.

While on the Sound, why not drop a crab pot? Sport crabbing is open in most marine areas of Puget Sound seven days a week through Dec. 31. The exceptions are Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton) and 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island), where annual quotas were reached during the summer fishery.

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. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.

All Dungeness crab kept in the late-season fishery must be recorded on winter catch cards, which are valid until Dec. 31. Winter cards are available at license vendors across the state. Those catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb. 1, 2014. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/crc.html.

Meanwhile, several rivers are open in November for steelhead fishing, including the Nooksack, Skagit, Cascade, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Skykomish, Wallace, Snoqualmie and Green.

“Anglers can certainly find some steelhead early in the month, but around Thanksgiving is when fishing historically starts to improve,” said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager.
Because regulations vary for each river, anglers should check WDFW’s sportfishing regulations pamphlet before heading out.



Thanks to a new emphasis on increasing fall lake fishing opportunities, trout angler can look forward to some renewed action this month.

“We’re launching our ‘Fall into Fishing’ stocking campaign in response to requests from anglers to increase year-round trout fishing opportunities in western Washington,” said Chris Donley, WDFW Inland Fish Program manager.

For beginning anglers, Donley introduces some basic techniques for trout fishing in Washington lowland lakes on this YouTube video.

Three lakes in King County — Morton, Green, and Meridian — have been stocked, as has Silver Lake in Snohomish County. To see a complete list of lakes stocked with catchable trout as part of this promotion, visit WDFW’s Fall into Fishing announcement.

South Puget Sound/Olympic Peninsula

In November, as salmon seasons start to wind down and before hatchery winter steelhead show up in big numbers, consider taking the trout rods, extra warm clothes, and some bundled-up kids to one of many popular trout lakes.

As part of its new “Fall into Fishing” promotion, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish hatchery crews began stocking 33 western Washington lakes with 75,000 large rainbow trout throughout October. Those stocking efforts will continue this month, said Chris Donley, WDFW’s inland lakes manager

“We’re launching Fall into Fishing in response to requests from anglers to increase year-round trout fishing opportunities in western Washington,” said Donley. “We decided to significantly expand our fall stocking. As always we encourage anglers to get out and enjoy the abundant fishing resources available to Washington residents, and we encourage everyone to get family and friends involved in the sport of fishing.”

Fishing should be excellent all month in regional year-round trout favorites such as St. Clair, Offut and Black lakes in Thurston County, among many others in Western Washington that are available for viewing here. For up-to-date stocking information, see the department’s weekly catchable trout stocking report here.

Salmon season 2013 hasn’t quite drawn to an end yet, but the ocean fishery is all done, and chum salmon are pushing into the region’s rivers. Chum are the latest of the five Pacific salmon species to enter Washington’s freshwater in numbers.



Popular chum salmon fishing spots include the Hoodsport Hatchery area of Hood Canal and the mouth of Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet. Other areas where anglers can find chum salmon include the Dosewallips and Duckabush rivers in Jefferson County and Minter Creek in Pierce/Kitsap Counties. Those three rivers open for salmon fishing Nov. 1.

In most of the region’s river, salmon fishing remains open through Nov. 30. Olympic Peninsula streams such as the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh and Sol Duc rivers will produce good numbers of salmon – especially coho salmon – throughout the month.



Also open for salmon fishing through November are the Elk, Hoquiam and Johns rivers in Grays Harbor County and the Bear and Niawiakum rivers in Pacific County. In Mason County, the Skokomish River is open for salmon fishing through Dec. 15.

Fishing for all salmon will close on Nov. 30 on most streams in the region, and many rivers have different rules about which species may be retained. As always, anglers should check the Washington Sportfishing Rules pamphlet to make sure they are following regulations.

Hatchery winter steelhead are also an option on several rivers, including the Bogachiel, Calawah, Hoh, Quillayute and Sol Duc. All wild steelhead, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released.

“As the month progresses, hatchery steelhead fishing should steadily improve,” said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager. “Traditionally, steelhead fishing really starts to heat up around the Thanksgiving holiday.”

Other good bets for steelhead include the Satsop, Wynoochee and Humptulips, said Leland.

Hatchery winter runs typically return earliest to the Humptulips and Bogachiel rivers, but the peak of winter steelheading for all of the aforementioned rivers begins late in the month or in early December.

“The Hump” and “The Bogie” are excellent November fisheries for salmon and the best bet for anglers hoping to hook into a chrome-bright winter steelhead during the month.
Because regulations vary between rivers, steelhead anglers should always check the Washington Sportfishing Rules pamphlet before wetting a line.

November should also be a good month for razor clam digging. State fishery managers have approved the first of two tentatively scheduled razor clam digs in November, this one running from Friday, Nov. 1, through Friday, Nov. 8, on evening tides at various ocean beaches.

WDFW approved the evening dig after marine toxin tests showed the clams on those beaches are safe to eat

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said this could be one of the season’s best razor clam digs. “This might be the best low-tide series we’ll have the entire season,” said Ayres. “Digging conditions and strong clam numbers combine to suggest diggers should do very well, weather depending.”

The schedule for the upcoming dig and evening low tides is:

· Nov. 1, Friday, 5:52 pm; 0.1 feet; Twin Harbors and Mocrocks
· Nov. 2, Saturday, 6:36 pm; -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, and Mocrocks
· Nov. 3, Sunday, 6:16 pm; -1.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, and Mocrocks
· Nov. 4, Monday, 6:59 pm; -1.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, and Mocrocks
· Nov. 5, Tuesday, 7:45 pm; -1.3 feet; Long Beach and Twin Harbors
· Nov. 6, Wednesday, 8:33 pm; -1.2 feet; Twin Harbors
· Nov. 7, Thursday, 9:24 pm; -1.2 feet; Twin Harbors
· Nov. 8, Friday, 10:19 pm; -0.3 feet; Twin Harbors



Ayres reminded diggers that best results typically occur one to two hours before low tide and that digging is not allowed at any beach before noon. “Getting to the beach early should allow diggers to harvest clams before darkness sets in, at least based on low-tide times for the first four or five days of the dig,” said Ayres. “But being prepared for darkness is a good idea. Always bring a lantern, which is much more effective for spotting clams than the direct beam of a flashlight.”

Under state law, diggers can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2013-14 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website and from license vendors around the state.

WDFW will announce the final word on a tentative dig to begin Nov. 15 after marine toxin tests have been completed. That dig is tentatively scheduled on the following dates, beaches and low tides:

· Nov. 15, Friday, 5:01 pm; -0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, and Mocrocks
· Nov. 16, Saturday, 5:42 pm; -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, and Mocrocks
· Nov. 17, Sunday, 6:20 pm; -0.7 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, and Mocrocks
· Nov. 18, Monday, 6:57 pm; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors
· Nov. 19, Tuesday, 7:33 pm; -0.4 feet; Twin Harbors
· Nov. 20, Wednesday, 8:09 pm; -0.2 feet; Twin Harbors

Comprehensive information about razor clams – from updates on tentative digs to how-to advice on digging and cooking – is available here.

Southwest Washington

Thanksgiving Day traditionally marks the start of the popular winter steelhead fishery, although some anglers start working their favorite rivers well ahead of time. Catch totals will ramp up as area rivers swell from the falling rain, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Steelhead move upriver on pulses of water,” Hymer said. “Once the sky opens up, we’ll see more fish on the move.”

The daily catch limit on the mainstem Columbia River is two adult hatchery steelhead, or two adult salmon (chinook and hatchery coho only), or one of each. On area tributaries, anglers may retain two adult hatchery steelhead plus the salmon limit listed for each river in the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

In all waters, only hatchery-reared steelhead with a clipped adipose fin may be retained. All wild, unmarked steelhead must be released unharmed.

Major destinations for hatchery-reared steelhead include the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis (east and north forks), Washougal, Elochoman and Grays rivers, along with Salmon Creek in Clark County. Other waters opening for steelhead fishing Nov. 1 are Abernathy, Coal, Germany and Mill creeks and the Coweeman River in Cowlitz County and Cedar Creek in Clark County.

WDFW’s Hatchery Escapement Reports can provide a good indication of the number of fish returning to each river. Anglers can also check the 2012 Steelhead Smolt Plant Reports to determine how many young fish were stocked last year.

“Based on the early summer run, we’re not expecting a huge return of winter steelhead this year, but we’ll know a lot more once they start moving into the rivers,” Hymer said.

Until then, late-run coho salmon may be the best bet for anglers who want to catch fish. Catch rates on the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, and Klickitat rivers – including both coho and some chinook salmon – were decent in late October.

“These are fairly large fish, some weighing up to 20 pounds apiece,” Hymer said. “The trick is getting them to bite. The best time is when they are moving upriver, drawn by high water. Otherwise, it can be hard to get their attention.”

State regulations allow anglers to catch and keep up to six adult coho salmon per day on the Cowlitz, Klickitat, Kalama, Lewis and Washougal rivers – and on the lower portion of the Grays River. Except in the Klickitat River, only those fish with a clipped adipose fin may be retained.

Several rivers – including the North Fork Lewis below Colvin Creek – also remain open for salmon, although some close Nov. 1. Effective that day, the Wind River closes to all salmon fishing as does the stretch of the Columbia River from Beacon Rock to Bonneville Dam.



“We’re seeing lots of coho jacks this year, which is good news for next season,” Hymer said.

Caught your fill of salmon and steelhead for the year? Here are some other options to consider:

· Cowlitz sea-run cutthroats: The bite is on, with some of the best fishing for cutthroat on the Cowlitz in years. Mark Johnson, WDFW hatchery complex manager, described the return as “spectacular, a possible record run.”

Fish up to 24 inches are being caught at the trout hatchery and local tackle stores report having trouble keeping night crawlers stocked.  The best fishing is downriver from Blue Creek near the trout hatchery. Anglers may retain up to five hatchery-reared cutthroats per day as part of the daily trout limit on the lower Cowlitz River.

· ‘Black Friday’ trout: Hatchery crews have been stocking 33 lakes – including six in southwest Washington with thousands of large rainbow trout in preparation for WDFW’s second-annual

“Black Friday” fishing event on the day after Thanksgiving. Area lakes receiving fish – mostly 12-17 inches with some five pounders – include Fort Borst Park, South Lewis County Park Pond, Kress Lake, Klineline Pond, Battleground Lake and Rowland Lake. See the news release for more information.

· Razor clams: An evening razor clam dig has been approved for Nov. 2-5 at Long Beach. A second dig this month at Long Beach is tentatively scheduled Nov. 15-17, pending the results of marine toxin tests. For updates and additional information, see WDFW’s Razor Clam Webpage.

Eastern Washington

The Snake River steelhead fishery has been only fair so far this year, said Glen Mendel, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) district fish biologist.

“That’s because it is a weaker run this year, when compared to either the five or 10 year averages,” Mendel said. “But catch rates in some areas are good and should be getting better. Large steelhead are in short supply this year as most A-run steelhead are returning after only one year in salt water, and the B-run steelhead return is expected to be very low this year.”

Mendel also notes that the Grande Ronde River, a tributary to the Snake, is traditionally a good steelhead fishery in November. Also, catch rates downstream of the mouth of the Grande Ronde are often good in November.

During the last week of October, creel reports on the Tucannon showed the best catch-rate average of all Snake drainage sections checked – just a little over five hours of angling per steelhead caught.

Nov. 1 is the start of catch-and-release fishing on the Tucannon River, from the mouth to the Tucannon Fish Hatchery bridge. Barbless hooks are required, as is the Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement.

Mendel reminds anglers to check the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for all details.

Many of the region’s top-producing trout fishing lakes are closed by November. But there are a couple of exceptions and several year-round-open waters worth trying in November.

Southwest Spokane County’s Amber Lake remains open through the end of November for catch-and-release, selective-gear fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout. WDFW District Fish Biologist Randy Osborne recently fished Amber and found trout in very good condition.

Osborne says anglers should be able to find some opportunity this month for yellow perch on two year-round lakes in Spokane County — Silver Lake, near Cheney, and Newman Lake, near the Idaho border.

Meanwhile, Lake Roosevelt – the year-round Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam – has “fast and furious” rainbow trout fishing, according to WDFW District Fish Biologist Bill Baker. “Roosevelt rainbow fishing is very good, with most fish running about 16 inches,” Baker said. “The best bite is early, 6:30 to 7:00 a.m., so anglers should try to be on the water in the early morning. The bite usually slows down by 11a.m.”

Baker also reported that Roosevelt walleye anglers are “having to work at it,” but most of the walleye caught in the Kettle Falls area are running 16-18 inches.

Waitts Lake in Stevens County is open through February and provides rainbow and brown trout, largemouth bass, and yellow perch.

Big rainbows continue to provide action at Sprague Lake, the year-round waterway that sprawls across the Lincoln-Adams county line just south of Interstate 90.

Northcentral Washington

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) District Fish Biologist Travis Maitland says that although the run of steelhead in the Upper Columbia River is smaller this year, anglers are doing well on the river from Rock Island Dam up to Chief Joseph Dam. That includes steelheading on the Icicle, Methow, Okanogan and Wenatchee rivers.

“The Methow has probably been the hottest ticket, and about half the fish caught are harvestable adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead,” Maitland said. “The Wenatchee has also been good, but with fewer clipped hatchery fish. The Okanogan has been slow and the Columbia River sections are producing spotty success, but that should improve into the fall and winter, depending on how long the fishery lasts.”

The hatchery steelhead fishery continues until further notice. Jeff Korth, WDFW regional fish manager, said about 14,000 adult steelhead are expected to return to the upper Columbia system this year, enough to allow a fishery but with caution. Korth said fishing is more tightly regulated this year because protected wild-stock fish are expected to make up a higher percentage of the run.

“These fisheries traditionally remain open through the winter, but we may have to close early due to the higher number of encounters with wild steelhead expected this year,” Korth said.

Korth and Maitland remind steelheaders that the retention season for hatchery steelhead on the Similkameen River opens Nov 1.

Anglers are required to keep the first two hatchery, fin-clipped, steelhead they catch, and that with the exception of the Columbia proper, where bait may be used, selective-gear rules apply.

These special rule fisheries (not listed in the 2013 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet) are for mandatory retention of adipose-fin-clipped steelhead, with a daily limit of two hatchery steelhead. Anglers must stop fishing for hatchery steelhead after they have retained two. See the Fishing Rule Change for all details.

Anglers are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement as part of their valid fishing license when fishing any of these tributaries of the Columbia.

Meanwhile, a few lowland rainbow trout lakes are still open for catch-and-release trout fishing through the month of November – Big and Little Green lakes near Omak, and Rat Lake near Brewster. Selective gear rules are in effect for these three lakes.

Anglers interested in catching yellow perch could try year-round-open Patterson Lake near Winthrop. Expect average size on these perch to be seven to eight inches. There’s no daily limit and no minimum size, and anglers are encouraged to retain all perch caught regardless of size.

Several other year-round waters in the region can provide decent fishing opportunities during the month of November. Banks Lake has a little bit of everything – yellow perch, smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie, walleye, kokanee, even lake whitefish. Moses Lake and Potholes Reservoir have most of the same, plus net-pen-reared rainbow trout.

“Fall is a great, but very overlooked time to catch walleye in particular on Moses, Banks, and Potholes,” Korth said.

Southcentral Washington

With an epic fall chinook salmon season in the books, most anglers’ attention throughout the region will turn to steelhead as waters continue to cool and fish hold up in winter concentrations for the cold months ahead.

Cooler water and only slightly depleted fat reserves make November one of the best months to harvest upriver summer steelhead for the barbecue. Catch rates typically increase during the month, as well.

Although this year’s run of summer steelhead over Bonneville Dam was under projection and below the 10-year average, the run is big enough to offer fair to good fishing throughout November and the remainder of fall, winter, and early spring.

Weekend crowds of several hundred boats are a thing of the past for the season on the Hanford Reach. With salmon anglers gone for the year, steelheaders will turn out in smaller numbers in November.

Fisheries managers from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) expect several thousand hatchery-origin steelhead to return to the Hanford Reach’s Ringold Hatchery this year.

Anglers will troll, plunk, drift and float bobbers for them, often with good success.

The Columbia can be intimidating water to find fish due to its sheer size, so it’s valuable to remember that steelhead orient to the seams and slots nearest the eastern bank of the river both above and below the hatchery intake creek at Ringold. For a mile above and even further below, many hatchery fish will spend the winter until they’re either caught or until waters rise in the spring and send them into the hatchery intake creek.

Ringold offers ample shore fishing access, as well as excellent boating opportunities. Bank anglers work the seams close to shore, working progressively deeper throughout the day as the suns climbs higher and as anglers’ casts and boat traffic spook fish deeper and further from shore. First thing in the morning, steelhead often lie in as little as 5 feet of water, but can be found as deep as 20 feet late in the day.

Boat anglers use trolling motors to hold parallel to the bank, slipping downstream slowly, casting toward shore and the slots and seams where steelies hold. Some boaters backtroll plugs as well.

Excellent lures for Ringold as well as for all other regional steelhead fisheries include scented or baited bucktail or marabou jigs in black, black and red, black and purple, and “nightmare” patterns. Jigs are fished close to the bottom below slip bobbers.

Other good offerings for steelhead throughout the region include drifting corkies with yarn, eggs, shrimp, or nightcrawlers – or trolling or backtrolling diving steelhead plugs in chrome colors: red, purple, green, and pink. Black with silver-sparkle overlay is another good choice.

Some anglers remove the hooks from plugs and attach four feet of leader followed by a corky or spin and glo and a tempting bait like coon shrimp or eggs. This method – called “diver and bait” fishing – works best in moving water.

Steelhead fishing can be even better farther down the Columbia in the still-water forebay behind McNary Dam, where a large concentration of steelhead stocks from throughout the basin hold for the winter. A similar wintering scenario exists in forebays behind other Columbia and Snake River Dams – like Ice Harbor Dam upstream of the town of Burbank.

Whereas the Columbia is big and swift-flowing at Ringold, fishing in dam forebays is akin to lake fishing. Steelhead behind McNary and other dams regularly cruise in water between 6 and 20 feet deep and react to pressure like Ringold fish – moving to water in the deeper end of this depth range when heavy weekend boat traffic spooks them.

During the daylight, anglers very slowly troll baited and scented jigs, set 8 to 22 feet below slip bobbers. This uncharacteristic technique has been popularized within the region in recent years and accounts for a large percentage of forebay fish. Other anglers troll a range of steelhead plug types, especially in the aforementioned chrome colors.

Trolling lighted plugs at night is popular and productive at McNary and in other dam forebays, but anglers should take special precautions to stay safe at night, including legally lighting boats in the bow and stern to stay visible to other anglers.

Anglers should always wear PFDs when boating the region’s waters to maximize safety and the chances of being found and returned to family in the event of a tragedy.

Diehard warmwater anglers know that November offers good bass and walleye fishing as they pack on pounds before slipping into lethargy for the winter, usually in December.

Every section of the Columbia and Snake Rivers in Southcentral Washington holds large populations of both smallmouth bass and walleye. Anglers should start in 15-25 feet on the edges of the main river channels.

In the northern part of the region near Ellensburg, trout lakes like Mattoon and North and South Fiorito ponds will be stocked in November with three- to 10-pound broodstock rainbows that should offer an exciting supplement to decent numbers of carryover trout that are also available.

Near Yakima, Rotary Lake and the I-82 Ponds should offer opportunities to harvest chunky holdover trout in ideal water temperatures. Ponds 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 are all stocked with rainbow trout. Early in the month, anglers might also connect with warmwater species like crappie, yellow perch, bass, and channel catfish.

Anglers should always check the Washington Sportfishing Rules pamphlet before wetting a line.

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