SW Washington Fishing: The month begins with a two-day opening of the spring chinook sport fishery on the lower Columbia River on Saturday, May 2, and Sunday, May 3. High counts of spring chinook passing Bonneville Dam the previous week allowed the two states to reopen the fishery for at least two more days, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Federal fish counters at the dam counted more than 17,000 adult spring chinook salmon April 28 and 11,000 more April 29, prompting officials to raise this years estimated run size to at least 220,000 upriver fish.
Thats a lot of fish over the dam in two days, and it really helped to boost confidence in this years spring chinook run, Roler said. Well be watching those numbers closely in the days ahead to see if we can give anglers some additional days on the water.
Prior to that opening, the spring chinook fishery had been closed below Bonneville Dam since April 16, at which point angler had caught 10,130 upriver fish since the season began.
As before, the anglers fishing May 2-3 can retain one hatchery adult chinook salmon as part of their daily catch limit. The area reopening to spring chinook fishing extends from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line upriver to Beacon Rock for boat and bank anglers, and to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam for bank anglers.
Anglers may also fish for shad and hatchery-reared steelhead when the spring chinook fishery is open. For both salmon and steelhead, wild fish with an intact adipose fin must be immediately released unharmed.
Whether or not the salmon fishery reopens later in May, anglers may retain hatchery steelhead and hatchery chinook jacks starting May 16 from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to the I-5 Bridge.
Above Bonneville Dam, fishing for hatchery salmon and steelhead is currently set to run through May 6 from the Tower Island power lines to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish upriver from Bonneville Dam to the Tower Island power lines during that time.
Like those fishing below the dam, anglers fishing those waters can catch and keep one adult hatchery spring chinook as part of their catch limit.
Two new fishing rules in effect above Bonneville Dam:
Allow anglers to possess up to four hatchery adult spring chinook salmon (four daily limits) in fresh form on the stretch of the Columbia River from The Dalles Dam upstream to the Washington/Oregon state line. This rule does not apply to fish kept while on a boat.
Prohibit using a boat or other floating device to set lines for spring chinook and steelhead while fishing from the Washington bank when the Columbia River is open to fishing from the Tower Island power lines downstream to Bonneville Dam. Only hand-casted lines may be used.
Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist, said anglers are likely to find this months best fishing for hatchery spring chinook in tributaries above Bonneville Dam specifically the Wind River, Drano Lake and Klickitat River.
Under rules currently in effect as of May 1 at both Drano Lake and Wind River:
Anglers may use barbed hooks to catch hatchery chinook and steelhead as specified in the rule change.
Each angler aboard a vessel may deploy salmon/steelhead gear until the daily salmon/steelhead limit for all anglers aboard has been met.
Boat anglers with a Two-Pole Endorsement may fish for salmon and steelhead with two poles.
In addition, the anti-snagging rule will be in effect on the Wind River from the Burlington-Northern Railroad Bridge upstream. Only fish hooked inside the mouth may be retained. Also, a night closure will be in effect upstream from Shipherd Falls which opens to fishing for spring chinook and hatchery steelhead starting May 1. Above Shipherd Falls any chinook adipose-fin clipped or not may be retained.
Drano Lake is closed to all recreational fishing on Wednesdays through June
Meanwhile, anglers continue to reel in some nice salmon and steelhead from tributaries flowing into the lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam. Fishing has been good on the Cowlitz River for springers at the barrier dam and for hatchery steelhead near the trout hatchery. The Lewis River remains closed to spring chinook fishing, but spring chinook fishing on the Kalama River has been extended until further notice.
The North Fork Lewis River from Johnson Creek (located below the salmon hatchery) upstream to Merwin Dam will be closed to all fishing during the month of May.
Hymer said prospects for summer-run hatchery steelhead are also good this month on the Kalama, East Fork Lewis, North Fork Lewis, and Washougal rivers. Selective fishing rules are in effect through early June on the lower East Fork Lewis and Washougal rivers. Selective gear will also be required on the lower Green and South Fork Toutle rivers when the early hatchery steelhead season gets under way the last Saturday in May.
Rather catch sturgeon? Anglers fishing The Dalles and John Day pools can retain legal-size until the respective catch guidelines for those waters are met. Legal fish measure 43 inches to 54 inches, fork-length. All sturgeon fishing is prohibited in the spawning sanctuaries below The Dalles, John Day, and McNary dams from May through July and from May through August below Bonneville Dam.
Although the Bonneville Pool is limited to catch-and-release fishing in May, this would be a good time to begin prospecting for the upcoming retention seasons scheduled June 19-21, June 26-28, and July 3-5.
Walleye fishing has been good in The Dalles and John Day pools, and bass should start biting there and in Bonneville Pool as the water warms up.
Anglers fishing for warmwater fishing should also be aware that the 2015 Columbia River Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery Program starts May 1. The program has a higher base reward ($5) and a newly revamped tier structure paying anglers up to $8 for each pikeminnow at least 9 inches in total length they catch from areas of the Columbia and Snake rivers. Specially tagged fish are worth $500.
Just as soon catch some trout? Several trout streams stocked with feisty rainbows will open for fishing on the Saturday of Memorial weekend. Those waters include Canyon Creek and the upper Little White Salmon River in Skamania County, and Spring Creek in Klickitat County. WDFW is no longer planting Outlet and Bird creeks in Klickitat due to new recovery efforts under way for the Oregon spotted frog.
WDFW also will continue to stock lowland lakes with catchable-size trout. Those receiving additional plants in May include Kress and Horseshoe lakes in Cowlitz County; Battleground Lake in Clark County; Kidney Lake in Skamania County; and Spearfish and Horsethief lakes in Klickitat County. Due to the lack of snow this winter, many mountain lakes are accessible for fishing.
Anglers are reminded Swift Reservoir will not open until the first Saturday in June, as noted in the fishing pamphlet. The later opening is designed to protect downstream migrating salmon and steelhead smolts, which are part of an ongoing reintroduction program under re-licensing agreements with PacifiCorp.