SW Washington Fishing: July offers anglers more time to catch chinook and sockeye salmon on the Columbia River, three-adult daily limits for hatchery steelhead on several area tributaries, and the last chance to catch and keep white sturgeon in the Bonneville Pool this year. Bass and walleye are also biting there and elsewhere, and trout are still swatting hooks in high mountain lakes.
Citing near-record numbers of summer chinook and sockeye salmon counted at Bonneville Dam, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon added three weeks to the summer salmon fishery on the lower Columbia River. The fishery for salmon and hatchery steelhead is now scheduled to run through July 31 from Astoria-Megler Bridge upriver to Bonneville.
Also approved was a new daily catch limit for summer chinook that will take effect July 3 for salmon fisheries on the Columbia River from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to the Oregon/Washington border, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam.
The new catch limit holds anglers to one adult chinook salmon per day whether or not it is marked as a hatchery fish as part of their overall catch. Since mid-June, anglers have been allowed to catch two adult chinook a day, but were required to release those not marked as a hatchery fish by a missing adipose fin.
Ron Roler, Columbia River Policy Coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said the new catch limit is designed to reduce the number of chinook salmon that are hooked and released during unusually warm water conditions.
Water temperatures in the Columbia River have risen above 70 degrees, which can affect survival rates for released fish, Roler said. With the prospect of more hot days to come, we want anglers to keep the first chinook they catch and move on to the other fishing opportunities available in the river.
In all, the new catch limit will allow anglers to take a total of six salmon or steelhead per day, including two adult salmon, two adult hatchery steelhead, or one of each but only one chinook salmon. As before, anglers must release any unmarked steelhead they catch, and sockeye will be counted as part of the adult daily limit. Chinook jacks also remain part of the overall daily bag limit, but anglers can retain both marked and unmarked fish.
Despite the high numbers of summer chinook counted at Bonneville Dam, fishing was spotty in late June due to low flows and high water temperatures in the Columbia River, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.
With water temperatures soaring, a lot of guys are shifting to fall tactics, Hymer said. That means fishing deep 30 to 50 feet down anchoring, and using a wobbler.
Another option is targeting summer-run steelhead, which have been moving into the lower Columbia at a growing rate, Hymer said. Hatchery steelhead, he said, should provide some good fishing this month in both the big river and many
Those fish, running four-to-eight pounds apiece, are fun to catch and great to eat, Hymer said. Unlike chinook, steelhead tend to run close to shore, so bank anglers should have some great fishing opportunities in the weeks ahead.
As Hymer sees it, the best bet for hatchery steelhead below Bonneville Dam is probably the Cowlitz River, where fish start arriving in large numbers in early July. Other options include sections of the Kalama, Lewis (North and East forks), Washougal, South Fork Toutle, Green, and Elochoman rivers. Anglers might also want to try fishing Drano Lake or the lower Wind River, where steelhead historically dip in to beat the heat.
Anglers fishing for steelhead on area tributaries should be aware of several changes in the regulations this year, including:
A number of rivers have a three-fish daily limit for hatchery steelhead.
Anglers are required to keep any hatchery fish they catch on those rivers.
Barbed hooks are allowed on the Elochoman, lower Cowlitz, South Fork Toutle, and Green rivers in July.
These and other new rules are described in the new Sport Fishing Rulespamphlet, available on WDFWs website and from license vendors throughout the state. Anglers will notice that the pamphlet is organized differently geographically rather than alphabetically this year, and are advised to take time to become familiar with the new layout.
Anglers should also be aware of potential traffic delays starting July 16 on State Route 4 near Cathlamet for a culvert-replacement project at milepost 34. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), in conjunction with WDFW, is replacing two aging culverts beneath the highway to improve fish passage between the Elochoman River Slough to the Columbia River. See WSDOTs website for more information.
A hundred miles upriver, the regions last scheduled sturgeon-retention fishery of the year is set July 3-5 in the Bonneville Pool. Anglers may keep one white sturgeon with a fork length of 38 inches to 54 inches per day. Except in sturgeon sanctuaries, catch-and-release fishing is open there and in other waters of the Columbia River.
Bass fishing is also heating up in the Bonneville Pool, and anglers are catching some nice walleye in The Dalles and John Day pools. The Merwin and Mayfield reservoirs are the place to go for tiger musky, and Yale and Merwin reservoirs are clear choices for kokanee.
In June, an angler using a plastic grub near Stevenson caught a 8.53-pound smallmouth bass just missing the state record of 8.75 pounds set in 1966 by a fish caught on the Hanford Reach.
Due to lack of snow, high mountain lakes have been accessible to trout anglers since early spring. But now water levels are dropping and warming up for the same reason. John Weinheimer, a WDFW fish biologist, recommends Takhlakh and Council Lakes near Mt. Adams for anglers who want to keep fishing the high country.
Both of these lakes are large, and will be stocked with thousands large catchable rainbow by the Fourth of July weekend, Weinheimer said. Takhlakh will also receive broodstock rainbow running 5-6 pounds apiece, and both of these lakes are terrific places to camp and fish.
Weinheimer also recommends three large drive-up lakes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. One is Horseshoe Lake, which contains beautiful eastern brook trout, browns, and tiger trout a sterile cross of the two. Big Mosquito Lake near Trout Lake also contains eastern brook and tiger trout, but boat access is largely limited to car-top boats and float tubes due to limited launch facilities. Walupt Lake is a large lake, featuring wild cutthroat and rainbow with a great campground.
Anglers, campers and anyone else headed outdoor are advised that fire restrictions are currently in effect throughout the state. Precautions taken by WDFW include a ban on campfires on department lands on both sides of the Cascades.