North Puget Sound: Rivers are now closed to steelhead fishing throughout the region, but anglers are still reeling in blackmouth salmon from Puget Sound and trout from area lakes.
Areas of northern Puget Sound open for blackmouth fishing include marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet). All these areas have a two-salmon daily limit, but anglers must release wild chinook salmon.
"Most blackmouth anglers have success fishing very near the bottom during tidal changes and by trolling with gear that imitates candlefish or other baitfish," said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) are closed to salmon fishing.
Anglers support the blackmouth winter chinook fishery through their license purchase, a portion of which goes to the Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Fund. The fund currently supports a variety of recreational fishing opportunities through the release of more than 1 million yearling and almost 9 million sub-yearling chinook each year.
Before heading out, anglers can check creel reports for information on catch and effort in Puget Sound. Recreational fishery samplers with WDFW collect the information each week at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound.
Looking forward to summer salmon fishing? Several public meetings have been scheduled throughout March and April as fishery managers continue to develop the 2015 salmon seasons, which will be finalized in early April.
Cutthroat trout are also an option this time of year, especially for those who dont mind a hike, said Justin Spinelli, a WDFW fish biologist.
On those days when the sun is making an appearance, anglers should consider hike-in waters for cutthroat trout, said Spinelli. Fishing usually picks up later in the spring, but heading out for a hike and casting for a trout is a perfect opportunity to avoid spring cleaning. Check the weather and road conditions, and dress appropriately.
Hike-in cutthroat opportunities can be found throughout the region. Spinelli suggests the following excursions:
Skagit County: Whistle Lake in Anacortes
Snohomish County: Temple Pond in Lord Hill Park, Lake Ida which is southeast of Lake Chaplain, and Lake Evan off the Mountain Loop Highway
Island County: Admiralty Bay Ponds near Fort Casey
Whatcom County: Squires Lake, also Pine and Cedar lakes on Chuckanut Mountain
For large fish, Spinelli recommends Lone Lake in Island County and Rattlesnake Lake in King County for rainbows, Pass Lake in Skagit County for rainbows and brown trout, and Squalicum Lake in Whatcom County for rainbows and the occasional tiger trout.
Anglers should also consider fishing cutthroat in the Sound. Sea-run cutthroat catch and release fishing picks up in March, and often fly fishers can have success with chum fry patterns during tidal changes near structure in the vicinity of rivers.
Fishing for kokanee in area lakes is also expected to pick up this month, particularly at Meridian (in Snohomish County), Angle (King County), Stevens (Snohomish County) Cavanaugh (Skagit County) and Samish (Whatcom County).
Because kokanee feed near the surface in low light conditions and then move deeper as the day progresses, successful anglers vary their depth and tackle throughout the day, said Spinelli.
Anglers fishing Lake Whatcom or Lake Samish are reminded that mandatory boat inspections are in effect to help prevent the spread or introduction of aquatic invasive species.
Fishing for bass (smallmouth and largemouth), panfish (yellow perch, pumpkinseed, rock bass, bluegill), and catfish (channel and brown bullhead) are increasingly productive options as spring approaches and lowland waters warm.
In March, these species can still be found around their winter haunts, near bottom structure (rocky outcroppings, points, and humps) in deep water, said Danny Garrett, fisheries biologist for WDFW. However, the warmest days in March will bring lethargic bass, catfish, and panfish out of the depths into warmer, shallower waters for brief periods.
By following the weather patterns and targeting the warmest days of the month, anglers will increase their chances of success this time of year, said Garrett. Though catch rates are lower in March, some of the largest bass are caught this time of year.
And, for those planning fishing vacations throughout the state, Great Washington Getaways is a WDFW website that showcases some of the state's best family travel and fishing opportunities.