SW Washington Fishing: Winter steelhead: The winter steelhead fishery is up and running after drawing a cadre of stalwart anglers for the traditional Thanksgiving opening. River conditions have been up and down since then, so it's always a good idea to check the Northwest River Forecast or other sources before heading out.
"Most anglers do best when water levels are rising or dropping," said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "It's a lot harder to catch steelhead in the peaks and troughs."
Best bets for the month ahead include the Cowlitz, Lewis (including north fork), Kalama, Grays, Washougal and Elochoman rivers, along with Salmon Creek in Clark County, Hymer said. Above Bonneville Dam, he recommends Rock Creek in Skamania County, where WDFW released 20,000 smolts last year
All streams have a three-fish daily limit, and anglers are required to keep all hatchery fish they catch. As with all steelhead fisheries in southwest Washington, only hatchery fish with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar may be retained. All wild steelhead must be released.
Hymer recommends checking WDFW's 2015 steelhead smolt-planting schedule along with recent hatchery returns to gauge the prospects for a given river.
Salmon: Anglers can find late-stock coho through the end of December, although this year's return is only so-so. Hymer recommends the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers for those set on catching silver salmon. For fall chinook, the North Fork Lewis should continue to produce catchable fish through December. Any chinook, with or without an adipose fin, may be retained on the Lewis.
New this year, anglers can also retain hatchery chinook and hatchery coho on several smaller streams in southwest Washington through December
Fishing rule changes: Anglers fishing for salmon or steelhead in tributaries to the Columbia River should be aware of several rule changes that take effect on or around Dec. 1:
Grays River Fishing opens Dec. 1 for hatchery steelhead, hatchery coho and hatchery chinook (with a clipped adipose and/or ventral fin) from the Hwy. 4 Bridge to the South Fork, and from the mouth of the West Fork Grays River to 300 yards below Hatchery Road Bridge.
Green River, North Fork Toutle River, and mainstem Toutle River from mouth to the forks Nov. 30 is the last day to fish for hatchery steelhead and hatchery salmon in these waters.
South Fork Toutle River Nov. 30 is the last day to fish for hatchery steelhead and hatchery salmon from the 4100 Bridge upstream. The stretch from the mouth to the bridge remains open for hatchery steelhead, with selective gear rules in effect beginning Dec.1
Cowlitz River Under permanent rules, Nov. 30 is the last day the night closure and anti-snagging rules are in effect from Mill Creek to the barrier dam.
Mill Creek (tributary to Cowlitz River) Beginning Dec.1, the creek opens to fishing for hatchery steelhead, hatchery cutthroats, and hatchery salmon from the mouth to the salmon hatchery road-crossing culvert. Night closures and anti-snagging rules will be in effect for the one-month fishery
North Fork Lewis River Starting Dec. 1, night closure and anti-snagging rules are lifted on the North Fork Lewis from Johnson Creek to Colvin Creek. Beginning Dec. 16, fishing for salmon and hatchery steelhead reopens from Colvin Creek upstream to the overhead powerlines below Merwin Dam.
Wind River Nov. 30 is the last day of the catch and release game fish season above Shipherd Falls.
Klickitat River Starting Dec. 1, fishing above Fishway #5 closes for trout, hatchery steelhead and salmon. The whitefish season on the Klickitat River opens Dec. 1 from 400 feet above Fishway #5 upstream to the Yakama Reservation boundary. Whitefish gear rules will be in effect.
Trout: Anglers should be aware that WDFW plans to stock several area lakes with catchable rainbows in early December. They include Klineline Lake (4,000), Battle Ground Lake (4,000) and Lacamas Lake (8,000).
In addition, thousands of rainbow trout planted just before Thanksgiving for WDFW's Black Friday fishing event are still waiting to be caught in lakes and ponds throughout the region. Many of those fish average 15 to 16 inches in length, and some weigh up to three pounds apiece.
Area lakes planted for Black Friday include:
Battle Ground Lake and Klineline Pond in Clark County
Kress Lake in Cowlitz County
Rowland Lake in Klickitat County
Fort Borst Park Pond and South Lewis County Park Pond in Lewis County