South Central Washington: Anglers fishing the Hanford Reach in late September were catching record numbers of fall chinook salmon, and are expected to do even better as water temperatures continue to cool and more chinook move into the area.
Hatchery steelhead are also on the menu this month downstream to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco, and walleye are striking hard between Umatilla and Boardman.
Salmon anglers launching from Vernita, White Bluffs and Ringold have all been reporting excellent fishing for fall chinook. Most of those fish have been weighing in at 15-plus pounds, with some tipping the scales at over 30 pounds, said Paul Hoffarth, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Anglers have a great opportunity to catch bright, good-eating fish through the first half of the month, Hoffarth said. These chinook salmon arrive at the Reach ready to spawn, so those that have been in the river for a couple of weeks are already starting to get a dusky hue.
Successful anglers are using a variety of techniques, including superbaits stuffed with tuna behind a flasher, fillet-wrapped qwik fish, and drifting or diving eggs.
Anticipating a strong chinook return, fishery managers expanded fishing opportunities in the Hanford Reach above the Highway 395 bridge at Kennewick/Pasco upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. Fishing rules now in effect in those waters include:
A daily limit of three adult salmon. Once the daily limit of adult salmon is retained, anglers must quit fishing for any species for the remainder of the day.
Anglers are allowed the use of two poles when fishing for any species, except sturgeon, if they possess a two-pole license endorsement.
The salmon fishery is open through Oct. 31 between the Hwy. 395 Bridge and the Old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers.
Anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers and are prohibited from removing any chinook or steelhead from the water unless those fish are retained as part of the daily bag limit. Anglers are advised to check the 2015-16 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet and emergency rules for all waters before heading out.
Speaking of steelhead, anglers can harvest Ringold Springs Hatchery steelies starting Oct. 1 on the Columbia River from the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco upstream to the old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers. Only those steelhead marked with both a clipped adipose fin and a clipped right ventral fin be retained. All hatchery steelhead with just an adipose clip and wild steelhead must be released immediately and cannot be removed from the water.
Anglers fishing that area have a daily limit of two hatchery steelhead with adipose and ventral fish clips that identify them as Ringold Springs Hatchery fish.
Its a fairly dependable fishery, Hoffarth said. Anglers usually pull 1,000 to 2,000 Ringold steelhead out of those waters every year.
WDFW resource managers ask that anglers fishing near the Ringold-Meseberg Hatchery take precautions to avoid spreading invasive New Zealand mudsnails, which have been discovered at and near the facility.
"We're asking boaters recreating in the area to help out by cleaning, draining and drying their boats and equipment," Pleus said. More information about preventing the spread of mudsnails is available on WDFWs invasive species webpage.
Salmon anglers can also do well on the Yakima River, where fishing for fall chinook and coho has just started to improve. Best bets include the waters from the Grant Avenue bridge downstream to the I-82 Bridge in Prosser and just downstream of Horn Rapids Dam, Hoffarth said.
The salmon start moving slowly into the Yakima, then all of a sudden theyre stacked like cordwood, he said. I think were going to see a dramatic improvement in that fishery in the weeks ahead.
Fishing is closed above the Grant Avenue Bridge and within 400 feet of Horn Rapids Dam.
Rather catch some walleye? October is also a great time to hook these toothy gamefish below McNary Dam, Hoffarth said. Fall fishing for walleye is dynamite between Umatilla and Boardman, he said. Those fish are putting on the feedbag for winter and are eager to strike big lures, night and day.