SW Washington Fishing: After a banner fall chinook season, area anglers are turning their attention to winter steelhead fishing. Thanksgiving Day traditionally marks the start of the popular fishery, but some anglers start working their favorite rivers well ahead of time. Catch totals usually start to ramp up as area rivers swell from the falling rain.
Steelhead move upriver on pulses of water, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist. Once the sky opens up, well see more fish on the move.
Anglers can catch and keep two hatchery steelhead on the mainstem Columbia River as part of their daily limit for adult salmonids. On most area tributaries, the limit is two hatchery steelhead plus the salmon limit listed for individual rivers 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. Starting Nov. 1, several other rivers and creeks open for steelhead fishing, including Abernathy, Coal, Germany and Mill creeks and the Coweeman River in Cowlitz County, and Cedar Creek in Clark County.
WDFWs Hatchery Escapement Reports can provide a good indication of the number of fish returning to each river. Based on the early summer run, we might have a few more winter steelhead this year, but well 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 fish area tributaries. Catch rates for coho and chinook salmon were also decent on the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, and Klickitat rivers, plus Drano Lake, 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. However, the Wind River closes to all salmon fishing Nov. 1 as does the stretch of the Columbia River from Beacon Rock to Bonneville Dam.
Were seeing lots of coho jacks at Bonneville this year, which is good news for areas above the dam 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 best fishing is typically 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 lakes six lakes in southwest Washington with thousands of large rainbow trout in preparation for WDFWs third-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 Pond, South Lewis County Park Pond, Kress Lake, Klineline Pond, Battleground Lake and Rowland Lake.
Razor clams: Evening razor clam digs are tentatively scheduled Nov. 4-11 and Nov. 20-26 at Long Beach and other beaches farther north. WDFW will announce final word on those digs once marine toxins tests have been completed.