SW Washington Fishing: Fall chinook season: This year's fall chinook fishery opens Aug. 1 on the lower Columbia River, where 960,000 chinook salmon are expected to return in the months ahead. While that projection falls short of last year's record return of 1.3 million fish, it is still well above the 10-year average and provides a solid foundation for the coming season.
"All signs point to another great fall chinook fishery in the Columbia River and its tributaries," said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "We're seeing the impact of these runs off the coast and they're heading right this way."
"Upriver brights," known for their hard-fighting ways, are expected to make up 580,000 of the fall chinook returning this year. Projected returns of hatchery coho and steelhead are below average, but both species will still contribute to this year's catch.
As in years past, only hatchery coho and steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained in the mainstem Columbia River. Barbless hooks are required when fishing for salmon and steelhead on the Columbia River, many of its tributaries, and the North Jetty.
While the opener for fall chinook extends upriver to the Tri-Cities, the popular Buoy 10 fishery in the lower 16 miles of the river will see most of the early action. State fishery managers estimate that anglers will catch nearly 48,500 chinook salmon in that area by Labor Day (Sept. 5), when chinook retention closes for the rest of September from Buoy 10 to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line.
Through Labor Day, the daily limit for the Buoy 10 fishery is two salmon, or one hatchery steelhead and one salmon. Only one salmon may be a chinook and only one fish may be a steelhead. In addition, anglers are required to release wild chinook on Sundays and Mondays to meet federal conservation guidelines for chinook runs listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Farther upriver, anglers may retain up to two adult chinook a day from Warrior Rock to the Hwy. 395 Bridge in Pasco, but the daily one-fish limit on steelhead will be in effect upriver to Bonneville Dam starting Aug. 1. The daily one-fish steelhead will then be extended upriver to McNary Dam on Sept. 1, and to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco starting Nov.1 .
Other new rules in effect this season:
Allow anglers to retain chinook salmon with either a clipped adipose or left ventral fin through Dec. 1 from Buoy 10 upstream to Bonneville Dam. This rule is designed to help reduce the number of ventral-clipped chinook raised for the Youngs Bay off-channel fishery that stray into other waters.
Reduce the daily limit for adult chinook salmon to two fish from the Steamboat Landing Dock in Washougal upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco. This rule is designed to conserve wild ESA-listed chinook bound for the Snake River.
This season was designed to optimize fishing opportunities, while meeting federal conservation guidelines for a number of salmon and steelhead runs," Hymer said. "It's especially important this year that anglers check the current fishing regulations before they head out."
Fishing the tributaries: Most tributaries will open for fall chinook fishing Aug. 1 along with the mainstem Columbia River, although those fisheries usually don't take off until September. The best prospects for chinook are 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 chinook marked or unmarked per day,
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. The Cowlitz is usually the best bet, but anglers can also do well fishing for coho on the Deep, Grays (including West Fork), Kalama, Klickitat, 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.
Salmon fishing tips: Anglers planning to cast a line during the fall chinook season might want to consider the following advice offered by Joe Hymer, a WDFW fishery manager and avid Columbia River fisherman.
Go deep for chinook: Hymer recommends fishing from 40 to 60 feet down in the mainstem Columbia River, using wobblers anchored with a heavy weight. "Chinook go deep when water temperatures are high, so that's a good place to find them," he said.
Change-up for coho: Herring and spinners work well for catching coho at Buoy 10, but bait and lures are the best bet in the tributaries.
Boat limits: Each angler aboard a vessel may fish using salmon/steelhead gear until the daily salmonid limit for all anglers aboard has been reached while fishing from Buoy 10 upstream to the Oregon/Washington border, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam.
Buoy 10 results: Check out the creel-sampling results from Buoy 10 on WDFW's website to see where other anglers are catching fish. That website also includes catch data from previous years, which can also be useful in deciding where to start trolling or make your first cast.
North Jetty reminder: Bank anglers planning to fish near the mouth of the Columbia River must purchase a Discover Pass to park on State Parks property near the North Jetty. The vehicle-access pass anglers receive with their fishing license only substitutes for a Discover Pass on WDFW lands.
Warmwater fish: Salmon and steelhead aren't 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.
Trout: The high lakes in the southern Cascades offer unparalleled trout 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 due to snowmelt. There are over a hundred lakes to explore with many different kinds of trout throughout these mountains.
A couple of drive-up lakes primed for fishing are Council and Takhlakh Lake on the northwest side of Mount Adams. Council was stocked June 27 with 4,362 catchable rainbow trout weighing almost a half-a-pound each. Takhlakh was also planted in late June with 4,340 catchables, along with 160 rainbows weighing almost four pounds each.