SW Washington Fishing: Anglers who fish the lower Columbia River are gearing up for hatchery steelhead now that most salmon-fishing opportunities are moving upstream. Summer steelhead are arriving to pick up the slack after the close of the fishery for adult chinook and sockeye salmon below Bonneville Dam.
Anglers fishing downriver from Bonneville can take up to two hatchery steelhead per day as part of their six-fish catch limit, which can also include hatchery jack chinook salmon. All wild fish with an intact adipose fin must be released.
Above Bonneville Dam, fishing seasons are still open for adult hatchery chinook and sockeye salmon, as well as hatchery steelhead. For adult fish, the daily limit remains two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each.
Based on current projections, 281,000 adult upriver steelhead will enter the Columbia this year along with thousands more bound for lower-river tributaries, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). While the upriver run is 20 percent below the average since 2003, those fish should provide plenty of action in the weeks ahead, he said.
"Hatchery steelhead are fun to catch and great to eat," said Hymer, noting that those arriving this month generally run four to eight pounds apiece. "Steelhead tend to run close to shore, so bank anglers should have some great fishing opportunities in the weeks ahead."
Through June 25, a total of 9,994 summer steelhead had passed Bonneville Dam.
Hymer suggests that anglers targeting hatchery steelhead consider fishing area tributaries as well as the mainstem Columbia River. As he sees it, the best bet is probably the Cowlitz River, where fish start arriving in large numbers in early July.
Other options below Bonneville include the Lewis (North and East forks), Washougal, South Fork Toutle, Green, and Elochoman rivers. The Kalama River also recently opened to retention of hatchery spring chinook from the boundary markers at the mouth to 1,000 feet below the fishway at the upper salmon hatchery. Anglers should check the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet and emergency rules for regulations specific to those rivers.
Anglers might also want to try fishing Drano Lake or the lower Wind River, where salmon and steelhead historically dip in to beat the heat. The White Salmon River is another option, although it is still recovering from the removal of Condit Dam, which filled the mouth of the river with sediment.
For trout anglers, access to high mountain lakes continues to improve as the snow recedes. John Weinheimer, a WDFW fish biologist, recommends Takhlakh, Horseshoe, Walupt and Big Mosquito lakes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest this time of year.
Takhlakh contains recently stocked rainbow trout catchables and broodstock running 5 to 6 pounds. Horseshoe contains beautiful eastern brook trout, browns, and tiger trout, a sterile cross of the two. Mosquito has eastern brook and tiger trout. Walupt has wild rainbows and cutthroat trout. All of these lakes are in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Swift reservoir continues to provide excellent fishing for rainbow trout and landlocked coho. Riffe Reservoir on the Cowlitz river also provides excellent resident coho fishing. For kokanee, Yale and Merwin reservoirs are an excellent choice.
Fishing for bass, walleye, and tiger musky is also warming up in the summer sun, Weinheimer said. Anglers are catching bass and walleye in the Columbia River and tiger musky in the Merwin and Mayfield reservoirs.