South Central Washington: Sturgeon: The McNary Pool (also known as Lake Wallula) opens Feb. 1 for retention of one legal-size fish a day, drawing anglers from throughout the region. The fishery extends from McNary Dam upstream to Priest Rapids Dam on the Columbia River and upstream to Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake.
Only sturgeon measuring 43-54 inches from their snout to the fork in their tail may be retained, with an annual harvest limit of two fish. Only fish that are going to be kept may be removed from the water.
The same catch and size limits apply to the sturgeon fishery currently under way in the John Day Pool, also known as Lake Umatilla. Anglers have been busily chiseling away at the 500-fish annual quota for the pool, so it doesn't pay to wait too long to go after those fish.
Whitefish: There is also no time like the present to catch whitefish, said Eric Anderson, a WDFW fish biologist based in Yakima. "This is the time of year when whitefish start to congregate, and catch levels rise," he said.
The fishery is open through Jan. 31 on the Naches River (mouth to Tieton River) and on the Yakima River (Sunnyside Dam to 3,500 feet below Roza Dam and from Roza Dam to Easton Dam.) The catch limit is 15 per day, but anglers are required to use a single-point hook measuring no more than 3/16-inch from point to shank (hook size 14).
Anderson recommends that whitefish anglers target deep pools below riffles. Most whitefish are caught with a small fly, tipped with a maggot, he said. The individual limit is 15 whitefish per day, most of which range from 10 to 15 inches long.
Steelhead: The next two months look promising for steelhead fishing in areas of the Hanford Reach and the Snake River. While often a little spotty, this year's winter fishery has been better than most and is likely to get even better by late February.
The daily limit in the Columbia River is two hatchery steelhead, while anglers fishing the Snake River can retain up to three hatchery steelhead per day. Barbless hooks are required when fishing for steelhead on both rivers.
Rainbow trout: Fishing prospects for rainbow trout will improve later this month, when WDFW begins stocking thousands of catchable-size fish into Dalton Lake, Quarry Pond, Hood Park Pond, and the Columbia Park juvenile-fishing pond. Several other waters around Yakima including I-82 Pond 4, Myron Lake and Rotary Lake were stocked in late December with rainbow trout broodstock weighing up to 10 pounds apiece.
Walleye: Fishing can also be slow in winter, but it has been very good so far this winter and there's always a chance of catching a lunker. Hoffarth said some of the largest walleye of the year are boated during the winter months near the Tri-Cities including the 20.3-pound state record taken in Lake Wallula two winters ago. The Oregon record, just shy of 20 pounds, was taken on Lake Umatilla during the winter of 1990.