South Central Washington: Anglers have a variety of options available in June, starting with hatchery spring chinook salmon on sections of the Yakima River, followed by summer chinook on the Columbia River. Meanwhile, hatchery crews are still stocking trout in area lakes, and many rivers also open for trout fishing Saturday, June 1.
Smallmouth bass and walleye are also warming up to anglers lures, and sturgeon fishing is still an option.
Prospective anglers who dont have a fishing license but would like to try fishing will get their chance June 8-9 during Free Fishing Weekend. During those two days, no license will be required to fish any waters open to fishing in Washington state. No vehicle access pass or Discover Pass will be required to park at WDFW wildlife areas or water-access sites those days.
This is the time of year when you see boats on trailers heading in every direction, said Eric Anderson, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) based in Yakima. June is a good time to catch fish in this part of the state.
Spring chinook fishing is currently open on two sections of the Yakima River, where cooler weather has moderated flows and improved fishing prospects, Anderson said. That should continue as long as we dont experience hot weather that brings on rapid snow melt, he said.
In the lower Yakima River, the fishery will likely remain open through June 30 from the Interstate 182 Bridge in Richland to the Grant Avenue Bridge in Prosser, Anderson said. The upper river from the Interstate 82 Bridge at Union Gap to the railroad bridge below Roza Dam is expected to remain open through July 15.
Anglers may keep two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery chinook per day. All wild salmon, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released unharmed and must not be removed from the water prior to release.
As explained in the fishing rule, anglers are required to use single-point, barbless hooks with a hook gap from point to shank of 3/4 inch or less when fishing for salmon. Use of bait is allowed, and anglers have the option of purchasing a two-pole fishing endorsement.
Fishery managers are predicting a return of approximately 3,000 adult hatchery chinook to the Yakima River this year.
John Easterbrooks, regional WDFW fish manager, noted that the department is seeking anglers cooperation in two aspects of the fishery a hooking-mortality study and an effort to ensure continued access across Roza Dam to the popular fishing area downstream from the railroad bridge boundary. Both are described in a news release on the WDFW website.
To participate in the fishery, anglers must possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement (CRSSE), which supports maintaining and expanding fisheries in the Columbia River Basin.
That is also the case with the summer chinook fishery, which gets under way June 16 upriver to Priest Rapids Dam. The daily limit is six hatchery fish, of which up to two may be adult hatchery chinook. Anglers must stop fishing for chinook when the adult limit is retained.
Fishery managers are anticipating a return of 73,500 summer chinook and a return of 180,500 sockeye to the Columbia River this summer. The Columbia River above the Highway 395 bridge in Kennewick will not be open for sockeye this year due to a relatively low run-size forecast. If the return comes in above expectations the sockeye fishery may be opened by emergency regulation later this summer.
Anglers often have a tough time landing summer chinook in the Columbia River between McNary and Priest Rapids Dam but it has been improving the last couple of years, said Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW fish biologist based in the Tri-Cities.
Meanwhile, anglers have been reeling in channel catfish from the lower reaches of the Yakima and Walla Walla rivers. Flows are a bit lower and the water is a bit clearer this year compared to the past couple of years which is good for spring chinook and bass fishing but not as good for catching catfish. Fishing for channel cats has been OK, but not great as recent years, said Hoffard, noting that catfish typically run 2-8 pounds but can easily weigh twice that amount.
Steelhead fishing will remain closed until fall in the Columbia River upstream of the Highway 395 Bridge and in the Snake River, but Hoffarth recommends several other fisheries now under way on those river systems:
White sturgeon: Fishing remains open in Lake Umatilla (John Day Dam to McNary Dam) until the quota is reached and is open in Lake Wallula (McNary Dam to Priest Rapids/Ice Harbor Dams) through July 31 this year. Fish must measure 43 inches to 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Anglers should be aware that sturgeon fishing is prohibited in sturgeon sanctuaries in the Snake River from Goose Island upstream to Ice Harbor Dam and in the Columbia River upstream of the Priest Rapids Hatchery outlet to Priest Rapids Dam, and from the I-82 bridge at Umatilla upstream to McNary Dam.
Shad: By mid-June, shad should reach McNary and Ice Harbor dams in numbers that make for great fishing. While not as prized as salmon or sturgeon, they can put up a good fight and make for good eating, Hoffarth said.
Smallmouth bass and walleye: Fishing for both species should improve in the Columbia and Snake rivers as those waters warm.
Rather catch some trout? WDFW will continue to stock lakes and ponds through June in the region, including Cooper, Easton, FioRito, Kiwanas, Lavendar, Lost, Naneum and Quartz in Kittitas County; and Clear, Dog, Leech and Indian Flat in Yakima County. Anglers can get more detailed information on lake fishing from the new Fish Washington link.
Starting June 1, a number of rivers will also open for fishing around the region. Anderson reminds anglers that most streams have reduced catch and size limits for trout, and there are catch-and-release zones on the Yakima River above Roza Dam, in sections of the Naches River and in Rattlesnake Creek where all trout must be released unharmed. Also, in most large main stem rivers and streams in the Yakima basin, anglers must use single-point barbless hooks and no bait.