SW Washington Fishing: Nearly a million fall chinook salmon are expected to start moving up the Columbia River this month, following strong returns of spring and summer runs that sent thousands of anglers home with chinook salmon in recent months. Other prospects in August include coho salmon, summer steelhead, bass, walleye and trout.
But high water temperatures and low flows resulting from extreme drought conditions have put a wrinkle in some fisheries in southwest Washington and throughout the state.
In mid-July, state fishery managers imposed a moratorium on all sturgeon fishing above Bonneville Dam, closed dozens of state rivers to fishing, and issued other new regulations designed to conserve wild fish populations.
With such extreme drought conditions in several areas of the state, we needed to take these steps to help protect vulnerable fish in waters where we have concerns, said Craig Burley, fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Well continue monitoring stream conditions throughout Washington this summer and take additional actions if necessary.
Current drought-related regulations affecting anglers in southwest Washington include:
Sturgeon moratorium: Sturgeon fishing (including catch-and-release) is now prohibited until further notice on the Columbia River upstream from Bonneville Dam, the lower Snake River, and on adjacent tributaries of both rivers. The rule was approved after WDFW confirmed 80 dead sturgeon on the riverbanks above the dam.
River closures: The following rivers in the region are closed to all fishing: the East Fork Lewis River (from Lewisville Park downstream) and the Washougal River (from Mt. Norway Bridge downstream).
Hoot-owl restrictions: Fishing is limited to one hour before official sunrise and 2 p.m. in the East Fork Lewis River (from Lewisville Park upstream) and the Washougal River (from Mt. Norway Bridge upstream).
None of those rules directly affect the popular fall fishery in the mainstem Columbia River, which opens Aug.1 upriver to the Hwy. 395 Bridge in Pasco. But how drought conditions, themselves, affect the fishery remains to be seen.
According to preseason forecast, 925,300 adult chinook will return to the big river this year up 50 percent above the 10-year average and more than half of them hard-biting upriver brights. The forecast also projects a return of 539,000 adult coho salmon, up 17 percent from the 10-year average.
During the first few weeks, most of the action will center on the popular Buoy 10 fishery in the lower 16 miles of the river, where fishery managers estimate that anglers will catch nearly 35,000 chinook salmon by Labor Day (Sept. 7). Anglers are also expected to catch 46,000 coho by the time that fishery closes at the end of the year.
Hatchery steelhead will also be available to round out the catch. A total of nearly 300,000 A-run and B-run steelhead are projected to return this year, similar to last year.
Through Labor Day, the daily catch limit at Buoy 10 is two salmon, two hatchery steelhead, or one of each. Only one of those salmon may be a chinook. Anglers can keep any legal-size chinook marked or unmarked.
For steelhead and coho, only fish marked with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained. Barbless hooks are required when fishing for salmon and steelhead on the mainstem Columbia River and many of its tributaries.
Fishing regulations notwithstanding, water temperatures exceeding 75 degrees are a real consideration when fishing for salmon particularly chinook salmon in the big river, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist based in Vancouver.
Chinook go deep when water temperatures are high, so thats a good place to find them, said Hymer, who recommends fishing between 40 and 60 feet down. For a lure, he suggests wobblers anchored with a heavy weight.
At the same time, anglers should take care not to drop anchor in the shipping channel, he said. That can lead to real trouble.
Anglers planning to fish the lower river may want to take advantage of the newly improved state boat ramp at Deep River. A WDFW Vehicle Access Pass or Discover Pass is required.
Anglers should also be aware of potential traffic delays throughout summer on State Route 4 near Cathlamet for a culvert-replacement project at milepost 34. The Washington State Department of Transportation and WDFW are working to replace two aging culverts beneath the highway to improve fish passage between the Elochoman River Slough to the Columbia River.
By mid-to-late August, the bulk of the chinook run usually begins to move upstream with increasing numbers of coho moving in behind them. Starting Aug. 1, several rules are in effect to increase opportunities for anglers to catch chinook salmon upriver from Woodland to the Tri-Cities.
Anglers may retain up to 2 adult chinook per day from the Warrior Rock line upriver to the Steamboat Landing Dock in Washougal. (See map)
The daily catch limit has been increased to 3 adult fall chinook from the Steamboat Landing Dock in Washougal upstream to Washougal upstream to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco . (See map)
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.
The procession of fall chinook, coho and hatchery steelhead should also provide good fishing on area tributaries for months to come, Hymer said. Like the mainstem Columbia River, most tributaries open for fall chinook Aug. 1, although those fisheries usually dont take off until September.
For steelhead, Drano Lake and the Wind River are popular spots to cast for migrating fish dipping into cooler waters. The White Salmon River is another place to prospect for steelhead.
Most tributaries to the lower Columbia River have a daily limit of 3 hatchery steelhead, although Wind River and Drano Lake are notable exceptions. Anglers are required to retain any hatchery steelhead they catch no catch-and-release fishing for steelhead is allowed.
s in previous years, anglers will be allowed to retain up to six adult hatchery coho on all tributaries to the lower Columbia River with hatchery programs. Those rivers include the Cowlitz, Deep, Elochoman, Grays (including West Fork), Kalama, Klickitat, Lewis (including North Fork), Toutle (including Green and North Fork) and Washougal.
Unlike the mainstem Columbia River, chinook retention is limited to marked hatchery fish on those river systems, except on the Klickitat and Deep rivers where unmarked chinook can also be retained. Mark-selective fisheries also will be in effect on the Wind and White Salmon rivers.
Anglers may retain any fall chinook or coho at Drano Lake beginning Aug. 1 and any chinook on the North Fork Lewis River beginning in mid-September. At Drano Lake and the Klickitat River, the daily limit is 3 adult chinook. Anglers are advised to check the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet and any emergency rules applicable to specific waters before leaving home.
Of course, salmon and steelhead arent the only fish available for harvest in August. Walleye fishing can be good in the Columbia River near Camas, as well as in The Dalles and John Day pools. Bass fishing is also heating up from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam.
Channel catfish, stocked into Kress Lake and Swofford Pond last year, are also providing some great fishing. Smallmouth bass fishing has been popular on Riffe Lake, and bluegill are a hit at Rowland Lake. Tiger muskie are available at Mayfield Lake and Merwin Reservoir, but there is a one-fish daily limit and a 50-inch minimum.
For trout, the high lakes in the southern Cascades offer unparalleled fishing experiences for those willing to brave the mosquitoes. Wilderness areas south of Mount Rainier and around Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens are now accessible with the snowmelt. There are over a hundred lakes to explore with many different kinds of trout throughout these mountains.
Two drive-up lakes on the northwest side of Mount Adams Council and Takhlakh have each received more than 3,000 catchable-size rainbows in recent weeks and are primed for fishing. Takhlakh also received 200 rainbows weighing almost 3.5 pounds and 600 at 1.79 pounds each.
Goose Lake was stocked the first part of June with 2,000 trout at a half-a-pound each, but the lake is low due to extreme warm weather. Contact the U.S. Forest Service at (360) 891-5000 for updated information.