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 continue to move into the Columbia River in large numbers.
With more than a month to go, this years catch of fall chinook could still set a new record, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Heavy rain 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 1.2 million fall chinook will return to the Columbia this year. While thats down from the preseason forecast of 1.5 million, the catch through September was still the fourth highest on record.
As of Sept. 23, nearly 750,000 fall chinook had passed Bonneville Dam, and anglers had caught 22,483 of them 125 miles downriver to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line. They also took home 6,842 summer steelhead and a record-setting 4,919 coho salmon during the same period.
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 for those who did.
Starting Oct. 1, anglers fishing in the Buoy 10 area may again retain up to two chinook salmon per day. Other fishing rules in effect on the mainstem Columbia River this month provide an array of fishing opportunities, including:
Buoy 10 to the Steamboat Landing Dock in Washougal: The daily limit is two adult salmon, two adult hatchery steelhead, or one of each. Anglers may retain any chinook, with or without a clipped adipose fin. However, coho and steelhead must be adipose- fin clipped to be retained.
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 its tributaries.
Before heading out, anglers are advised to check the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet and Emergency Rules for additional information on regulations currently in effect on the Columbia River and its tributaries.
Anglers should also be aware that portions of the North Jetty at the mouth of the river will be closed for construction work in October. See the public notice on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website for more information.
As with the mainstem Columbia, plenty of good fishing awaits anglers planning to fish tributaries above and below Bonneville Dam this month. Catch rates have been going strong for both chinook and coho salmon, and will benefit 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. 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.
Starting Oct. 1, anglers fishing the Lewis River including the North Fork may retain up to two 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.
Anglers fishing the Cowlitz River will also have the entire month to try for their three-fish daily limit of hatchery steelhead.
Strong chinook runs like the ones weve seen in the past two years make it possible to offer a lot more fishing opportunities, Hymer said.
Want to catch some trout? WDFW fish biologists have some recommendations:
Goose Lake: This mountain lake in Skamania County was recently stocked with about 2,100 coastal cutthroat, averaging almost a pound apiece. Fishing should be very good until snow blocks the road later this fall.
Swift Reservoir: Also in Skamania County, this impoundment heats up for trout fishing from October through November. Anglers may keep up to 10 trout or landlocked coho, but must release all salmon larger than 15 inches in length and any bull trout or wild steelhead they intercept.
Mayfield Lake: Good numbers of catchable trout remain in the lake, which was stocked heavily throughout the summer until Labor Day. The daily limit is five fish, 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 trout remain to be caught. The daily limit is 10 fish, averaging 12 inches. The minimum size is 8 inches.
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.