SW Washington Fishing: Columbia River spring chinook: Salmon managers from Washington and Oregon have approved sportfishing seasons for spring chinook salmon on the Columbia River, setting the stage for the first major salmon fishery of the year. Fishing will improve throughout the month as a growing number of springers move up the big river.
According to the preseason forecast, approximately 248,500 spring chinook salmon will return to the Columbia River this year, an increase of 20 percent from 2017. That number includes 166,700 upriver fish bound for waters above Bonneville Dam up 44 percent from last year but still 10 percent below the 10-year average.
The initial fishing season below Bonneville Dam will run from March 1 through April 7 with a catch guideline of 6,680 upriver fish. The fishery will be open to boat anglers from Buoy 10 to Beacon Rock. Bank anglers can also fish upriver to the dam.
Above Bonneville Dam, chinook fishing will be open March 16 through May 7 from the Tower Island power lines upriver to the Washington/Oregon border near Umatilla. Bank fishing will also be allowed from the dam upriver to the power lines. The catch guideline for boat and bank anglers fishing above the dam is 900 upriver chinook.
The daily catch limit above and below Bonneville Dam is one adult hatchery chinook salmon, as part of a daily limit of two adult fish that can also include hatchery coho salmon and hatchery steelhead. Anglers fishing the Columbia River are required to use barbless hooks, and must release any salmon or steelhead not visibly marked as hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin.
Fishing the tributaries: The steelhead catch is starting to pick up on the Cowlitz River, where anglers are catching bright 8-12 pound steelhead near the trout hatchery. The Kalama River is also giving up some nice steelhead, and both rivers should be good bets for hatchery spring chinook.
Meanwhile, anglers have through March 15 to fish for steelhead on the Coweeman, Elochoman, Grays, East Fork Lewis, South Fork Toutle, and Washougal rivers. That is also the case for Abernathy, Germany, Skamokawa, Mill (Cowlitz Co.), Cedar (Clark Co.), Rock (Skamania Co.), and Salmon (Clark Co.) creeks. Barbless hooks are required in all Washington Columbia River tributaries with a few exceptions.
Farther upriver, Wind River and Drano Lake open for salmon fishing March 16, with a daily limit of two hatchery chinook, or two hatchery steelhead, or one of each. Anglers planning to fish any of these waters are advised to check for emergency fishing rules to make sure they are aware of any updates to state regulations before they head out.
Smelt: The sport fishery remains closed until further notice. The daily catch by the commercial research fishery in the Columbia River has remained below the 250-pound trigger for considering a sport opening, and the scarcity of sea lion and bird activity around the Cowlitz River also indicates a low presence of smelt in the river. This notice will be updated if the situation changes.
Sturgeon: Retention fishing for white sturgeon is closed in the Columbia River downstream from Priest Rapids Dam, but catch-and-release fishing is open in all waters not designated as sturgeon sanctuaries.
Warmwater fish: Anglers continue to reel in walleye from The Dalles and John Day pools. Crappie fishing has been good in Silver Lake, but it may take some extra effort to get a legal limit. Anglers are also catch panfish in Vancouver Lake, Kress Lake, and Round Lake.
Trout: WDFW hatchery crews are stocking a number of lakes for the winter fishery, while Kress Lake has been receiving plants of excess adult hatchery steelhead. Lake Merwin give up some quick limits, although anglers should be aware that the water level can vary considerably especially with extended rain.