SW Washington Fishing: Winter steelhead: The winter steelhead fishery is up and running after drawing a gathering of hardy anglers for the traditional Thanksgiving opening. River conditions have been up and down since then, so its 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 WDFW fish biologist. It's a lot harder to catch steelhead in the peaks and troughs.
Best bets for steelhead in the month ahead include the Cowlitz, Lewis (including the north fork), Kalama, Grays, Washougal and Elochoman rivers, along with Salmon Creek in Clark County, Hymer said. Above Bonneville Dam, Rock Creek in Skamania County is also a good place to catch steelhead.
The daily limit on most tributaries below Bonneville Dam is three hatchery steelhead plus the salmon limit listed for individual rivers in the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. Only hatchery steelhead with a clipped adipose fin may be retained, and anglers are required to keep the first three hatchery steelhead they catch.
Anglers fishing the mainstem Columbia River can retain up to two adult salmonids a day through Dec. 31 from Buoy 10 to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco, but only one may be a hatchery steelhead. Anglers may retain any chinook salmon with or without an adipose fin but all wild coho must be released from the Hood River Bridge downstream.
Salmon: Anglers can find late-stock coho through the end of December, although this years return is only so-so. Hymer recommends the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers for those set on catching coho. 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.
Anglers can also retain hatchery chinook and hatchery coho on several smaller streams in southwest Washington through December.
Fishing rule changes: New fishing opportunities will open up for steelhead and/or salmon on the following rivers this month.
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.
Mill Creek (tributary to Cowlitz River) Starting 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. Selective gear rules, 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 chinook, hatchery coho, and hatchery steelhead reopens from Colvin Creek upstream to the overhead powerlines below Merwin Dam.
Cowlitz River Starting Dec. 1, night closure and anti-snagging rules will be lifted from Mill Creek to the barrier dam under permanent rules.
The following closures also will be in effect:
Green River, North Fork Toutle River, and mainstem Toutle River from mouth to the forks Nov. 30 was the last day to fish for hatchery steelhead and hatchery coho in these waters.
South Fork Toutle River Nov. 30 was the last day to fish for hatchery steelhead and hatchery coho from the 4100 Bridge upstream. The stretch from the mouth to the bridge remains open for hatchery steelhead, with selective gear rules in effect starting Dec.1.
Klickitat River Starting Dec. 1, fishing above Fishway #5 closes for trout, hatchery steelhead, and salmon.
Whitefish: 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.
Sturgeon: Catch-and-release fishing is allowed in all areas of the Columbia River except for Hanford Reach, but retention fishing for white sturgeon is closed.
Warmwater fish: Water temperatures may be dropping, but warmwater fishing is still going strong. Silver Lake has been good for crappie, and Lacamas Lake has been showing yellow perch.
Trout: The Black Friday fishing event has come and gone, but thousands of fish planted by WDFW are still striking lures throughout the region. The department will also begin planting rainbow broodstock some weighing up to 10 pounds as they become available this month.
Meanwhile, Merwin Reservoir and Yale Reservoirs are producing some nice kokanee.