SW Washington Fishing: Columbia River salmon/steelhead: Rain and cooler weather have improved fishing conditions on the lower river, providing some good opportunities to catch migrating fall chinook salmon below and above Bonneville Dam. While the tules have largely moved on to their spawning grounds, plenty of upriver brights are still available for harvest in the lower river.
In past years, anglers have done well in October fishing for chinook salmon upstream from the Lewis River to Bonneville Dam, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW salmon biologist. Starting Oct. 1, chinook retention is also allowed from the Lewis River/Warrior Rock line downstream to Buoy 10.
In both areas, the catch limit is two adult salmonids a day, which can include chinook salmon, hatchery coho, and up to one hatchery steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin. As usual, all unmarked steelhead must be released everywhere in the Columbia River Basin.
Coho fishing was good at Buoy 10 in early September and some are now attacking lures in the tributaries.
Above Bonneville Dam, anglers may retain two adult salmon per day upriver to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco, but must release wild coho from the Hood River Bridge downstream. Starting Oct. 1, anglers may substitute one hatchery steelhead for a salmon upriver to John Day Dam, but all steelhead must be released further upriver to the Highway 395 Bridge in October.
Fishing the tributaries: Below Bonneville, Hymer recommends the Cowlitz, Lewis and Kalama rivers for chinook and coho salmon. All three rivers are large and 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.
Above Bonneville, Drano Lake and the Klickitat River are perennial hotspots for migrating salmon through late October.
The daily limit at Drano Lake is three adult salmonids, of which only one may be a 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.
Sturgeon: 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.
Trout: October is a great month to catch trout in southwest Washington, whether on a river, a lake, or an impoundment. Stacie Kelsey of WDFWs Inland Fish Program makes 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. Fishing should be very good until snow blocks the road later this fall. Anglers should be aware that the lake can drop to low levels and the boat ramp may be out of the water, so boats that can be carried to the water are the best bet. Anglers should also contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make sure there are no road closures due to area forest fires.
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 rainbows, but must release all salmon larger than 15 inches in length and any bull trout or wild steelhead they intercept. The lake can be low at this time of year. For the latest boat ramp conditions call PacifiCorp at 503-813-6666.
Lake Scanewa: This reservoir upstream of Cowlitz Falls Dam was stocked throughout the summer, leaving catchable rainbow trout available for harvest. The daily limit is 10 adipose-clipped rainbow trout. They run about 12 inches in length.
Council & Takhlakh Lakes: The cancellation of a fishing event due to local fires has left 1,000 catchable rainbows stocked and ready to strike in each of these two lakes. This will provide a nice fishery for early fall. Contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for any possible road closures due to area forest fires.
Warmwater fish: Although water temperatures are cooling, warmwater fishing is still very active in southwest Washington. While the Eagle Creek fire has limited lake fishing effort in the Columbia River Gorge, Rowland, Spearfish and Horsethief lakes continue to produce panfish. Horsethief Lake closes Oct. 31.
In Lewis County, Carlisle Lake and South Lewis County Park Pond are also great options for panfish and largemouth bass, while Riffe Lake provides good fishing for smallmouth bass. For tiger muskies, Mayfield and Merwin are a good bet at this time of year.
The Columbia River is still very active for walleye and channel catfish above John Day Dam. Anglers are doing well in The Dalles Pool, Bonneville Pool and below Bonneville Dam especially in the Camas Slough and around the islands.