SW Washington Fishing: Columbia River salmon/steelhead: Most of the mainstem Columbia River is closed to fishing for salmon and steelhead until further notice.
On Sept. 13, low returns of upriver bright (URB) fall chinook salmon prompted an emergency closure of all salmon fishing from the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to Hwy 395 in Pasco. Steelhead fishing has also been closed in those water since Aug. 27 due to weak runs.
WDFW has issued an explanatory statement describing the factors that led to the early closure of this years fall chinook fishery in the mainstem Columbia River. Those factors include:
The preseason forecast for adult upriver bright (URB) chinook salmon anticipated a return of 205,000 adult fish, down 25 percent from last year and 53 percent from the 10-year average.
URB chinook, a key component of the chinook run bound for waters above Bonneville Dam, include Snake River salmon listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
By early September, it became clear that the URB run was even weaker than expected, and the annual forecast was downgraded to 130,000 fish. This triggered a sharp reduction in the impact rates on those ESA-listed fish allowed for Columbia River fisheries, since those rates are based on the size of the forecast.
NOAA-Fisheries required that Washington and Oregon close salmon fishing in the Columbia River when it became clear that the number of fish already taken exceeded the ESA limit.
Although healthy numbers of coho are expected to return to the Columbia over the next month, the only way state fishery managers can reopen an area to salmon fishing is to demonstrate that wild Snake River fish will not be taken. Based on that criteria, the states have been allowed to reopen several Select Fisheries including Deep River in Washington that were initially closed.
State fishery managers will continue to work with NOAA to determine if other fisheries can be opened if their analyses show they will not incur any additional ESA mortalities.
Fishing the tributaries: As on the mainstem Columbia River, some salmon and steelhead runs are falling short of preseason expectations. Chinook fisheries are now closed until further notice on the lower Cowlitz River and the Washougal River due to low chinook returns.
In addition, the Toutle River and the North Fork Toutle River will close to retention of chinook salmon effective Oct. 6, when the Grays River and the West Fork Grays River will close to retention of coho.
On Drano Lake, the daily limit for adult salmon has been reduced to one fish from two. Anglers are also reminded that Drano Lake and the Wind River are closed to steelhead retention until further notice. Anglers are advised to check for any additional emergency rules affecting fishing on the tributaries before they head out.
On the Klickitat River, anglers can catch up to three adult salmon, including two adult coho. Both marked and unmarked fish may be retained.
Anglers should also be aware that signs marking the area that is closed to fishing around the fish release site at Gust Backstrom Park on the Tilton River have been moved to expand the no-fishing area to 300 feet from 100 feet. This change is designed to give salmon released now and later in the season a better chance to recover under low, warm-water conditions and to help maintain an orderly fishery at the park. Anglers can harvest hatchery salmon outside the posted closed waters.
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, anglers can 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. Due to changes in fishing regulations, some waters are closing Oct. 31. Anglers should consult the fishing pamphlet to verify if your favorite lakes have regulation changes.
Goose Lake: This mountain lake in Skamania County was stocked at the end of September with just over 1,000 beautiful 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 contact the Gifford Pinchot National Forest for road closure information at (509) 395-3402.
Swift Reservoir: Also in Skamania County, Swift has had a bit of a slow season, but generally heats up for trout fishing from October through November. Anglers may keep up to 10 adipose-clipped rainbows, but must release all salmon smaller than 8 inches and larger than 15 inches in length, along with 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.
Mayfield Lake: This fun water has been stocked throughout the summer with catchable rainbow trout. The daily limit is 10 adipose-clipped rainbow trout. Minimum size for trout is 8 inches.
Merwin & Yale: Kokanee fishing has been slower than normal in Merwin but has been really good in Yale.
Warmwater fish: Although water temperatures are cooling, warmwater fishing is still very active in southwest Washington.
Horsethief Lake: This lake closes Oct. 31 and has been producing some nice size bass and walleye.
Lacamas Lake: Continues be really good for largemouth bass and yellow perch.
Mayfield & Merwin: Are still excellent fishing for tiger muskies.
Riffe Lake: This lake had a bit of slow start for smallmouth bass due to the lake levels but has picked up through the summer. Anglers can check this website for lake levels.
Columbia River: is still very active for walleye and channel catfish above John Day Dam and walleye below John Day Dam.