SW Washington Fishing: Fall chinook season: The fall season shifts to a new phase in September as anglers pursue salmon and steelhead further up the Columbia River and its tributaries. Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist, described fishing in August as "challenging good one day and slow the next." Even so, more fall chinook salmon passed Bonneville Dam by the end of last month than almost any other year since at least 1938.
"Once we start getting some fall weather, the bite should pick up considerably," Hymer said.
Anglers are advised that barbless hooks are required when fishing for salmon and steelhead on the Columbia River, many of its tributaries, and the North Jetty.
Buoy 10 fishery: The popular chinook fishery in the lower 16 miles of the Columbia River has been extended through Sept. 14, because the catch has been lower than expected. In addition, the requirement that anglers release wild, unmarked chinook on Sundays and Mondays has been lifted on Sept. 4-5 for the same reason.
Through Sept. 14, the daily limit is 2 salmon/steelhead, only one of which may be a chinook. Salmon other than chinook and coho must be released, and only one hatchery steelhead may be retained. From Sept. 6-30, the daily limit is two hatchery coho, or one hatchery coho and one hatchery steelhead. All salmon except hatchery coho must be released.
Boat anglers should be aware of Oregon's sport fishing closure at the mouth of Young's Bay that runs through Sept.15.
Fishing upriver: As salmon and steelhead move further upriver, anglers should be aware of changing catch limits upstream from the Buoy 10 area.
In most areas of the river up to McNary Dam, the catch limit is a maximum of two adult salmon or one adult salmon and one hatchery steelhead. In all cases, anglers must release all salmon other than chinook or coho. Wild coho must be released from the Hood River Bridge downstream.
However, due to conservation limits, anglers are limited to one chinook salmon from Rocky Point/Tongue Point upstream to Warrior Rock through Sept. 9. Then, from Sept. 10-14, only hatchery chinook with a clipped adipose or left ventral fin may be retained. From Sept. 15-30, anglers must release all chinook salmon in those waters.
Other mainstem Columbia rules in effect in September:
Buoy 10 upstream to McNary Dam Only one hatchery steelhead per day may be kept through Dec. 31.
Buoy 10 upstream to the Washington/Oregon border, 17 miles upstream from McNary Dam Through Dec. 31, each angler aboard a vessel may fish using salmon/steelhead gear until the daily salmonid limit for all anglers aboard has been reached.
Warrior Rock Line upstream to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco Up to 2 adult chinook, fin-clipped or not, may be retained per day through the end of the year
Bonneville Dam upstream to McNary Dam The anti-snagging rule is in effect for salmon and steelhead through mid-October, requiring that those species be hooked inside the mouth to be retained. Night closure is also in effect from Bonneville Dam upstream to The Dalles Dam.
Fishing the tributaries: Success rates for salmon fishing usually start ramping up in area tributaries in September. Best bets for chinook include the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, Washougal and Klickitat rivers, along with Drano Lake.
Chinook retention is limited to fish with a clipped adipose fin, except on the Klickitat River and Drano Lake where anglers can catch up to three adult chinook marked or unmarked per day. In addition, up to 2 adult coho a day may be retained from the Klickitat River and 3 adult coho from Drano Lake. Again, the fish may be marked or unmarked.
Due to the reduced coho forecast, anglers are limited to taking two marked adult hatchery coho a day on all tributaries to the lower Columbia River with hatchery programs. Anglers can find coho in the Cowlitz, Deep, Grays (including West Fork), Kalama, Lewis, Toutle, and Washougal rivers.
For steelhead, Drano Lake and the Wind River are popular spots to catch fish as they stop or at least slow down to enjoy the cooler waters. The smaller "A-run" fish usually stay on the bite through mid-August, when larger "B-run" steelhead weighing in the teens arrive to take up the slack.
Warmwater fish: Walleye fishing can be good in the Columbia River near Camas, as well as in The Dalles and John Day pools at this time of year. Bass fishing is also heating up from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam.
Trout: For anglers who don't mind a hike or a drive, September is also a great time to head for the high lakes around Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, and the south end of the Cascade Range. Lakes you can drive up to include Goose, Council, Takhlakh, Ollalie, and Big Mosquito, all offering great fall fishing opportunities.
Other great fishing opportunities await anglers around the Indian Heaven, Goat Rocks, William O. Douglas, and the Trapper Creek wilderness areas. The trout are biting, the mosquitos are gone, and the leaves are blushing with fall color. September is the time when the trout start feeding heavily to prepare for winter and anglers can hook up with some nice rainbow, cutthroat, eastern brook, brown and tiger trout.
For a different fishing experience, anglers might want to hit Mayfield Lake, Swift Reservoir and Lake Scanewa, where the limit is 10 hatchery rainbows per day. WDFW recently planted 72,000 catchable-size rainbows in Mayfield, 45,000 in Swift, and 20,000 in Scanewa.