SW Washington Fishing: The bulk of this years big fall chinook run to the Columbia River has now moved past Bonneville Dam, pushing into fisheries upstream to the Hanford Reach and beyond. Hotspots above the dam include the mouths of the White Salmon River, Drano Lake and the Klickitat River.
But that doesnt mean salmon fishing below Bonneville is over for the year. State fishery managers expect that anglers will catch a lot more fall chinook this month as well as coho salmon, which should move into the Columbia River in larger numbers.
With more than a month to go, this years catch of fall chinook will likely set a new record, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Rain and cooler water temperatures in September moved a bunch of fresh fish into the river, which will help keep this fishery going for weeks to come.
Fishery managers now project that nearly 1.2 million fall chinook, including 735,000 upriver brights, will return to the Columbia this year. Both would be the second largest runs on record since at least 1938.
As of Sept. 25, nearly 800,000 fall chinook had passed Bonneville Dam, and anglers had caught more than 28,000 of them in the 125 miles downriver to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line. Hymer said anglers can expect plenty more action with less competition for the prime spots in the weeks ahead.
This is a great time of year to catch salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin, he said. Theres still time to get in on the action for those who didnt get a chance last month and more good fishing for those who did.
Starting Oct. 1, anglers fishing in the Buoy 10 area may again retain up to two adult chinook salmon per day. Other opportunities this month include:
Buoy 10 to the Steamboat Landing Dock in Washougal: The daily limit is two adult salmon or hatchery steelhead or one of each. Anglers must release all salmon other than chinook and hatchery coho.
Steamboat Landing Dock to the Hwy. 395 Bridge in Pasco: Anglers may retain up to three adult salmonids, of which no more than two may be coho, hatchery steelhead or one of each. All salmon other than chinook or coho must be released. Wild coho must be released from the Hood River Bridge downstream.
Boat limits: Each angler aboard a vessel may deploy recreational salmon/steelhead gear until the daily salmonid limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved while fishing from Buoy 10 upstream to the Oregon/Washington border, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam.
Barbless hooks: Anglers are required to use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon and steelhead on the mainstem Columbia River and most of its tributaries.
As in the mainstem Columbia, plenty of good fishing awaits in the tributaries above and below Bonneville Dam. Catch rates have been strong for chinook and fair for coho salmon in many rivers, and will likely improve from the arrival of fall rains, Hymer said.
Fall rainstorms will help move an infusion of chinook and late-run coho salmon into the tributaries over the next month, he said. They also bite better under those conditions.
Hymer noted that anglers fishing Drano Lake and the Klickitat River may retain up to three adult chinook salmon with or without clipped adipose fins per day. In addition, anglers may use barbed hooks for salmon and steelhead. Drano Lake is also open to two-pole fishing for those with an endorsement. However, anglers are reminded Drano Lake will be closed to all fishing from 6 p.m. Tuesdays to 6 p.m. Wednesdays in October.
Anglers fishing the Lewis River including the North Fork may retain up to two adult chinook salmon, adipose fin clipped or not. In addition, the North Fork Lewis River will remain open from Colvin Creek to the overhead powerlines below Merwin Dam through Oct. 31 for fall chinook, hatchery coho, and hatchery steelhead.
Strong chinook runs like the ones weve seen in the past three years make it possible to offer a lot more fishing opportunities, Hymer said.
Anglers looking to catch some trout might want to consider these options:
Goose Lake: This mountain lake in Skamania County was recently stocked with about 2,000 coastal cutthroat, averaging almost a pound apiece. In addition several hundred large catchable rainbows were also planted. Fishing should be very good until snow blocks the road later this fall. The lake level is very low and the boat ramp is out of the water, so boats that can be carried to the water are the best bet.
Swift Reservoir: Also in Skamania County, this impoundment heats up for trout fishing from October through November. Anglers may keep up to 10 adipose-clipped rainbow trout or landlocked coho, but must release all salmon larger than 15 inches in length and any bull trout or wild steelhead they intercept. The reservoir level is very low this year due to the drought and the boat ramp is not usable. The lack of a boat ramp will make access challenging, but hand-carried boats such as kayaks may be a good bet, and shore fishing could be the ticket in certain areas too.
Mayfield Lake: Good numbers of catchable rainbow trout remain in the lake, which was stocked heavily throughout the summer. The daily limit is 10 adipose clipped rainbow trout, which run about 12 inches in length.
Lake Scanewa: Farther upstream on the Cowlitz, this reservoir upstream of Cowlitz Falls Dam was also stocked throughout the summer and catchable rainbow trout remain to be caught. The daily limit is 10 adipose-clipped rainbow trout. They will run about 12 inches in length.
WDFW fish biologist John Weinheimer also notes that the area around the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery is also productive for hatchery sea-run cutthroats in October.
These aggressive fish average a foot or more and can be caught on a variety of gear including bait, flies, or lures, he said. Its the only place in the entire state where hatchery sea-run cutthroats are available for harvest and anglers should take advantage of this unique opportunity.