SW Washington Fishing: Summer salmon fishing: The fishery for summer chinook salmon, sockeye salmon and steelhead continues through July 31 on the mainstem Columbia River from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to the Hwy. 395 Bridge in Pasco. Anglers can keep any sockeye they catch, but only hatchery-raised chinook and steelhead with a clipped adipose fin may be retained.
The daily catch limit is six salmonids, including two adult hatchery salmon, or two hatchery steelhead, or one of each. Barbless hooks are required. Sockeye salmon count toward the daily limit, but there is no limit on the large number of shad currently moving up the Columbia River.
Fishing for summer chinook has been decent from the Cathlamet River to Bonneville Dam since the season got under way June 16, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist. Known for their size, some summer chinook have checked in this year at 30 to 40 pounds.
Through June, nearly half of the 93,300 summer chinook projected to return this year had moved up the fish ladders at Bonneville Dam, but more remain available for harvest. Last year's preseason forecast was 73,000 fish, with an actual return of 126,900.
Meanwhile, the count of sockeye salmon at the dam has skyrocketed, with more than a quarter-million fish tallied through June. Fishery managers are now projecting a return of 400,000 sockeye, up substantially from the 101,600-fish preseason forecast.
Averaging about five pounds apiece, sockeye are great on the grill but can prove challenging to catch, Hymer said. To get them to bite, he recommends baiting up with shrimp (their preferred prey in the ocean) and downsizing your gear.
Summer steelhead: Anglers are also catching hatchery steelhead near the mouths of several rivers and farther upstream as well. Some 256,400 upriver summer steelhead are expected to pass Bonneville Dam this year, amounting to about 77 percent of the 10-year average. Lower river summer steelhead returns have averaged 62,500 fish over the past 10 years.
Below Bonneville Dam, Hymer's top choice for summer steelhead is the Cowlitz River, where fish start arriving in large numbers in early July. Other options include sections of the Kalama, North Fork Lewis, Washougal, South Fork Toutle, Green, and Elochoman rivers.
Above the dam, Hymer recommends Drano Lake and the lower Wind River, where steelhead historically dip in to beat the heat. The Klickitat River can also produce some good catches.
In the Columbia River, the daily limit is six salmonids, including two hatchery steelhead, or two adult hatchery chinook, or one of each. Barbless hooks are required. Daily limits for tributaries to the Columbia River are listed in the new 2016-17 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, now available online or from license vendors throughout the state.
Sturgeon: All waters below McNary Dam are now closed to sturgeon retention, although catch-and-release fishing is permitted in areas not designated as spawning sanctuaries. The best spot for anglers who want to catch and keep white sturgeon is farther upriver in the Wanapum and Priest Rapids reservoirs. For more information on those new fisheries,
Shad: July is prime time to catch shad, the largest member of the herring family. Weighing up to 8 pounds apiece, millions of them have begun moving up the Columbia River. Shad are fairly easy to catch and there are no daily limits.
Trout: July is a great time to catch some trout and beat the heat at high lakes in Southwest Washington.
John Weinheimer, a WDFW fish biologist, recommends Takhlakh and Council Lakes near Mt. Adams for those who want to drive to their fishing spot.
"Both of these lakes are large, and will be stocked with thousands of large catchable rainbows by the Fourth of July weekend," Weinheimer said. "Takhlakh will also receive broodstock rainbow running 5-6 pounds apiece, and both of these lakes are terrific places to camp and fish."
Weinheimer also recommends three large drive-up lakes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. One is Horseshoe Lake, which contains eastern brook trout, browns, and tiger trout a sterile cross of the two. Big Mosquito Lake near Trout Lake also contains eastern brook and tiger trout, but boat access is largely limited to car-top boats and float tubes. Walupt Lake is a large lake, featuring wild cutthroat and rainbow with a great campground.