SW Washington Fishing: Columbia River salmon: The spring chinook fishery is closed below Bonneville Dam, where the count of fish up the fish ladders will determine whether or not the season will be extended this month. The closure includes fishing for salmon, steelhead and shad in the 145-mile section of the Columbia River downstream from the dam.
Above Bonneville Dam, anglers can continue to catch and keep chinook salmon, steelhead and shad through May 6. The daily limit includes one hatchery adult chinook in the waters stretching from Bonneville Dam to the Washington/Oregon state line.
Whether or not the spring chinook season reopens in May, anglers may retain hatchery steelhead and hatchery chinook jacks starting May 16 from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to the I-5 Bridge. Shad fishing also reopens that day up to Bonneville Dam.
Fishing the tributaries: Spring chinook salmon have been on the bite on the Cowlitz River, where returns of feisty springers were "running ahead of the curve" through April. Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist, said anglers should continue to do well on both the Cowlitz and on the Kalama River where the daily limit for adult hatchery-reared chinook has been increased to two fish.
The Lewis River remains closed to spring chinook fishing due to low projected returns.
The Cowlitz has also been producing some nice catches of hatchery steelhead near the trout hatchery, although the run is tapering off. The Kalama and Washougal may be a better bet for summer-run steelhead in the weeks ahead. Selective fishing rules are in effect on the lower Washougal and will also apply to several other area rivers opening in late May.
Spring chinook passage at Bonneville Dam was running behind schedule in April, but May could be a different story, Hymer said. Three tributaries Wind River, Drano Lake and the Klickitat River often provide the best fishing once springers start moving past the dam in high numbers. "The challenge is to intercept them while you can, because they move quickly once they decide to cross the dam," Hymer said.
Under current rules at Drano Lake and Wind River:
Anglers may use barbed hooks to catch hatchery chinook and steelhead.
Each angler aboard a vessel may deploy salmon/steelhead gear until the daily salmon/steelhead limit for all anglers aboard has been met.
Boat anglers with a Two-Pole Endorsement may fish for salmon and steelhead with two poles.
Also on the Wind River, the anti-snagging rule is in effect from the Hwy. 14 Bridge upstream, and fishing opens May 1 above Shipherd Falls for any chinook and hatchery steelhead. Drano Lake is closed to fishing at night and to all recreational fishing on Wednesdays through June.
The lower Klickitat River is open to fishing for hatchery spring chinook and hatchery steelhead on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays only through May. The daily limit for hatchery chinook and hatchery steelhead is a total of two fish, the same as on Drano Lake and the lower Wind River.
This year, there's a new twist. Anglers who catch tagged fish in those and other waters can claim prizes ranging from fishing gear to gift cards offered by license dealers around the state.
Meanwhile, a number of lakes in southwest Washington will receive fresh plants of trout this month. They include:
Clark County: Battle Ground Lake, Klineline Pond.
Cowlitz County: Horseshoe Lake, Kress Lake.
Klickitat County: Horsethief Lake, Spearfish Lake.
Skamania County: Goose Lake, Kidney Lake.
Lewis County: Fort Borst Park Pond, Mayfield Lake, South Lewis County Park Pond, Swofford Pond.
Anglers are reminded that Swift Reservoir will not open until the first Saturday in June, as noted in the fishing pamphlet. The later opening is designed to protect downstream migrating salmon and steelhead smolts, which are part of an ongoing reintroduction program under re-licensing agreements with PacifiCorp.
Elsewhere in the region, several streams will open to fishing May 28, the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. They include Canyon Creek in Clark County; the upper Little White Salmon River in Skamania County; and Spring Creek in Klickitat County. Due to recovery efforts of the Oregon spotted frog, Outlet and Bird creeks in Klickitat County will not be stocked this year. Another option is kokanee fishing, which is heating up on Merwin Reservoir and Yale Lake in Cowlitz County.
Sturgeon fishing: Anglers can still catch and keep legal-size white sturgeon in John Day Pool, but The Dalles Pool reached its harvest limit and closed to retention fishing April 30. Legal-size sturgeon measure 43 to 54 inches (fork length). Catch-and-release fishing is now the rule in the lower Columbia River, Bonneville Pool and The Dalles Pool.
Warmwater fish: Walleye fishing has been good in The Dalles and John Day pools, and bass fishing is also improving there and in the Bonneville Pool as the water warms up.
Anglers fishing for warmwater fishing should take note that the 2016 Columbia River Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery Program starts May 1. The program pays anglers up to $8 for each pikeminnow measuring at least 9 inches in total length they catch in areas of the Columbia and Snake rivers. Specially tagged fish are worth $500