SW Washington Fishing: Spring chinook salmon: Record-setting flows of turbid water washed out fisheries in the Columbia River Basin in March, with no immediate relief in sight. At Bonneville Dam, streamflows reached levels unmatched since 1950, reducing anglers' catch to a fraction of the levels expected during the first month of fishing.
In response, state fishery managers extended the initial season for spring chinook below Bonneville Dam by four days. The initial fishing period, originally set to close April 6, was extended through April 10 under an agreement reached by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.
Farther upstream, the sport fishery between Bonneville Dam and the Washington-Oregon border, east of Umatilla, remains open through May 5.
"As everyone knows, it's extremely rough out there," said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist. "The best bet for anglers is to watch for conditions to improve. Catches can ramp up quickly once streamflows subside and more fish start moving upriver."
Hymer recommends that anglers check river flows and fish-passage counts for signs of improvement, and keep their eyes peeled for floating debris once they get out on the water.
Anglers fishing the Columbia River are allowed to catch and keep one marked, hatchery-reared chinook salmon as part of their daily limit of two adult salmon, two steelhead, or one of each.
Best bets for spring chinook: Given the turbid river conditions, Hymer said a good fishing strategy is to fish close to riverbanks and near the mouth of the Kalama and Wind rivers and Drano Lake. "Those areas are likely to clear first, and give anglers a chance to catch some fish," he said.
Once the river drops and clears, Hymer suggests trying the lower river near the Cathlamet area or just below Bonneville Dam. The Cowlitz and Kalama rivers also offer good opportunities for taking home a hatchery spring chinook, and the Cowlitz is also a good place to catch late winter-run steelhead.
Anglers should be aware, however, that fishing for spring chinook is closed on the Lewis River, and that all fishing is closed near the mouth of the Lewis, as defined by the fishing rule posted on WDFW's website.
Trout: The season opens full throttle April 22 when several hundred lowland lakes throughout the state open for business. While most lakes in the region are open year-round, "opening day" marks the debut of such perennial favorites as Mineral Lake, Fort Borst Park Pond, Carlisle Lake, and Davis Lake in Lewis County; and Rowland, Spearfish and Horsethief lakes in Klickitat County. Swift Power Canal also will be planted with trout prior to the April 22 opener.
Kidney Lake in Skamania County will not be stocked this year, because the lake is located on private property and there is no public access to stock it.
Like last year, Swift Reservoir will not open until the first Saturday in June to protect salmon and steelhead smolts migrating downstream. Those smolts are part of an ongoing reintroduction program under re-licensing agreements with PacifiCorp.
In other waters, WDFW will continue to plant thousands of catchable trout in Clark County year-round lakes, including Klineline Pond, Battleground Lake and Lacamas Lake. Three lakes in Cowlitz County Sacajawea, Kress, and Horseshoe lakes will also receive plants of rainbow trout, as will three lakes in Skamania County Icehouse, Little Ash, and Tunnel lakes.
To accommodate a fishing event for kids, Klineline Park in Vancouver will be closed to the general public April 6-8.
Warmwater fish: Anglers can fish for bass, walleye and channel catfish without daily catch or size limits from the mouth of the Columbia River 545 miles upstream to Chief Joseph Dam. A fishing rule approved last year by WDFW removed the remaining limits for those species in boundary waters shared with Oregon and nearly two-dozen tributaries to the Columbia River. Be sure to check the rule change notice for the details.
Recently, anglers have been averaging over a walleye per rod in The Dalles Pool and the John Day Pool. Bass are biting there and in Bonneville Pool as the water warms up.
Sturgeon: With the recent closure of retention fishing in the John Day pool, anglers must now release any sturgeon they catch from the mouth of the Columbia River to McNary Dam.