SW Washington Fishing: Columbia River salmon/steelhead: The bulk of this year's Columbia River fall chinook run has now moved past Bonneville Dam, invigorating fisheries at Drano Lake, the Klickitat River and farther upstream. But there are still opportunities to catch some nice fish in the lower Columbia River, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist based in Vancouver.
"The tules have moved on, but there are still a good number of upriver brights available for harvest this month," Hymer said. "Anglers did very well last October fishing for chinook around Bachelor Island, and there's bound to be plenty of sweet spots in the lower Columbia again this year."
Coho fishing was spotty at Buoy 10 in late September, but large B-run steelhead many weighing in the teens have been striking lures from Vancouver to Longview, Hymer said.
The daily limit for adult salmonids is two per day only one of which may be a hatchery steelhead from Buoy 10 to the Hwy. 395 bridge in Pasco. All steelhead with an intact adipose fin must be released.
Fishing the tributaries: Drano Lake and the Klickitat River are perennial hotspots for migrating salmon and steelhead through late October. As of late September, anglers fishing those waters were averaging one salmonid for every two rods.
The daily limit at Drano Lake is three adult salmonids, of which only two may be hatchery steelhead. Anglers fishing the Klickitat River can also retain three adult salmon per day, but only two of those fish may be coho salmon. In both waters, anglers must release any steelhead with an intact adipose fin but may retain chinook and coho whether marked or unmarked.
Starting Oct. 1, anglers with a two-pole endorsement may fish for salmon and steelhead at Drano Lake using two poles and each angler aboard a vessel may fish until the daily limit is reached for all anglers aboard. Barbed hooks are allowed through Dec. 31, but Drano Lake is closed to all fishing on Wednesdays in October.
Below Bonneville, Hymer recommends the Cowlitz, Lewis and Kalama rivers for chinook and steelhead. All three are large rivers that support substantial runs of fish through October. "Salmon start to turn dark this month in some rivers, but anglers can find bright chinook salmon on the Lewis River all month long," he said.
Sturgeon fishing: Catch-and-release fisheries are open in all areas of the Columbia River below Priest Rapids Dam. While none of those waters are open to retention fishing, Hymer suggests anglers give catch-and-release fishing a try. "Sturgeon are providing quite a bit of action out there right now," he said.
Trout: October is a great month to catch trout in southwest Washington, whether on a river, a lake, or an impoundment. John Weinheimer, a WDFW biologist in Vancouver, offers these suggestions:
Goose Lake: This mountain lake in Skamania County was stocked at the end of August with about 2,000 coastal cutthroat, averaging almost a pound and a quarter apiece. In addition about 1,500 large catchable rainbows were planted in mid-September, running almost a pound apiece. Fishing should be very good until snow blocks the road later this fall. Anglers should be aware that the lake level is very low and the boat ramp is out of the water, so boats that can be carried to the water are the best bet.
Swift Reservoir: Also in Skamania County, this impoundment heats up for trout fishing from October through November. Anglers may keep up to 10 adipose-clipped rainbow trout or landlocked coho, but must release all salmon larger than 15 inches in length and any bull trout or wild steelhead they intercept. Currently the reservoir level is low. For the latest boat ramp conditions call PacifiCorp at 503-813-6666.
Mayfield Lake: Good numbers of catchable rainbow trout remain in the lake, which was stocked heavily throughout the summer. The daily limit is 10 adipose clipped rainbow trout, which run about 12 inches in length.
Lake Scanewa: This reservoir upstream of Cowlitz Falls Dam was also stocked throughout the summer and catchable rainbow trout remain to be caught. The daily limit is 10 adipose-clipped rainbow trout. They will run about 12 inches in length.
Weinheimer also notes that sea-run cutthroats are snapping up lures in the area around the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery the only place in the state where hatchery sea-run cutthroats are available for harvest. "These aggressive fish average a foot or more and can be caught on a variety of gear including bait, flies, or lures," he said. Meanwhile, aggressive trout feeding in the high lakes can provide outstanding fishing in in the South Cascades. However, anglers need to be prepared for inclement weather conditions in fall, whether hiking or driving in these remote locations.