What’s Fishin’ In Washington

Trout in Spokane and Basin lakes, Chinook in the Southwest corner, crappie and walleye in Banks, lings and steelies on the Coast and trips at Rufus.

Just a sampling of some of the fish biting now around Washington.

Here’s more from WDFW’s Weekender:


Thousands of anglers are gearing up for the lowland lakes trout opener in late April but many remain focused on the marine areas of Puget Sound, where blackmouth salmon fisheries are still under way.

“Overall, fishing for blackmouth continues to be very slow in northern Puget Sound,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. “But a number of anglers that made it out on the water for the recent Anacortes Salmon Derby had a bit of success and landed some large fish.”

A total of 132 fish were weighed during the Anacortes Salmon Derby , which took place March 27-28. Ralph Thomas of Tacoma took home the $15,000 grand prize with his 27.48-pound fish. John Belarde of Woodinville hooked a 25.72-pound salmon that was good enough for second place and $5,000, and Seth Baumgarten of Kirkland was awarded $2,500 for his third-place fish, which weighed in at 24.38 pounds.

“Those are some outstanding blackmouth,” Thiesfeld said. “Anglers definitely have to put in some time on the water, but it can be worth it for an opportunity to haul in a 20-plus pound blackmouth.”

Anglers fishing in Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) – as well 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) – have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook. Those three marine areas are open through April 30.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) is open only through April 15. Anglers fishing Marine Area 9 also have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Halibut anglers should be aware that the fishing opener for the big flatfish in most marine areas of Puget Sound has been delayed this year. The later starting date is necessary because of the combination of a reduced quota and excessive catch last year in the Sound.

To ensure that the halibut fishery in Puget Sound stays within the quota, the fishing season in marine areas 6-10 will run from May 1 through May 30. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will retain its traditional opening date just before the Memorial Day weekend but will close earlier than it has in the past. Marine Area 5 will be open from May 28 through July 19.

The Puget Sound halibut fisheries will be open three days a week – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – and closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound) will be closed this year to protect rockfish, which may be caught incidentally by anglers fishing for halibut. As in previous years, Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.  For more information on 2010 halibut fisheries, see the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/creel/halibut .

Freshwater anglers looking to cast for trout will soon have numerous lakes to choose from. The lowland lakes trout season gets under way April 24, when many lakes – stocked with thousands of legal-sized trout – will open for fishing. Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on WDFW’s website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants ).

Current regulations for all freshwater and saltwater fisheries are avaiable in WDFW’s Fishing in Washington pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ).


April will see the traditional opening of the statewide lowland lakes trout fishing season, the expansion of lingcod fishing on the north coast and at least one proposed razor-clam dig on ocean beaches, pending the outcome of tests for toxins. The tentative dates for clamming are April 16, 17 and 18.

Anglers also continued to catch steelhead in relatively large numbers. Last weekend, 37 anglers fishing the Bogachiel/Quillayute River caught 54 steelhead; all but two were wild. Fishing was also good on the Lower Hoh River, where 65 anglers caught 39 steelhead fish over the last weekend in March. The good fortune didn’t extend to the Upper Hoh, where 38 anglers fished for more than 220 hours, reeling in only six wild steelhead, all of which were released. The retention fishery closes at the end of the day April 15 on the Hoh River, but will remain open through April 30 on the Quillayute River system.

As was the case last year, the weather on Washington’s coast so far hasn’t been very conducive to ocean fishing for lingcod. Anglers have brought in a few 20 to 22 pounders in marine areas 1-3, but the weather has afforded few opportunities to fish, said Erica Crust, WDFW’s ocean port sampler in Westport.

Crust said that a few privately owned boats that did venture out caught their limits of lingcod and rockfish right off the jetty. Charters have had more success. According to Crust, the majority have come in with their limit of rockfish and an average of one lingcod per person.

Typically, many anglers wait until Marine Area 4 opens on April 16 to head out. “Neah Bay is historically a good fishery for lings,” said Crust. “If the weather cooperates, we should see some excellent fishing there again this year.”

Crust reminds anglers that recreational fishing for bottomfish or lingcod is not allowed in waters deeper than 30 fathoms in Marine Area 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) from March 14 through June 15.  However, anglers may retain sablefish and Pacific cod in these waters from May 1 through June 15. Retention of canary and yelloweye rockfish is prohibited in all areas.

The minimum size for lingcod in marine areas 1-3 is 22 inches, while the minimum size in Marine Area 4 is 24 inches. All areas are open seven days a week. Additional information about the lingcod fishery and other bottomfish is available on the WDFW Fishing Hotline (360) 902-2500 or online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .

Anglers still looking for blackmouth are running out of time. Marine Areas 5 and 6 will close April 10, although Marine Areas 11, 12 and 13 will remain open through April 30. On the Peninsula, blackmouth anglers are catching a few chinook, but the action has fallen off in recent weeks. At the Pt. Defiance dock in Tacoma only five chinook were checked in the week ending March 28.

Rather dig razor clams ? WDFW is tentatively planning at least one opening in April, provided marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat. All are scheduled on morning tides and digging ends at noon. Tentative dates and tides:

* Friday, April 16 (8:32 a.m., -0.7 ft.) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Saturday, April 17 (9:12 a.m., -0.7 ft) Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch only
* Sunday, April 18 (9:56 a.m., -0.6 ft) Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch only

Meanwhile, hatchery crews are stocking lakes throughout the region with tens of thousands of rainbow trout to prepare for the April 24 lake-fishing opener. More information and schedules are available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants .

Halibut anglers should be aware that the fishing opener for the big flatfish in most marine areas of Puget Sound has been delayed this year. The later starting date is necessary because of the combination of a reduced quota and excessive catch last year in the Sound.

To ensure that the halibut fishery in Puget Sound stays within the quota, the fishing season in marine areas 6-10 will run from May 1 through May 30. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will retain its traditional opening date just before the Memorial Day weekend but will close earlier than it has in the past. Marine Area 5 will be open from May 28 through July 19.  For more information on 2010 halibut fisheries, see the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/creel/halibut .


The spring chinook fishery on the lower Columbia River has sprung into action.  After a slow start, the recreational catch for March shot up to 7,693 fish caught or released – the third highest count for that month since the creel-check program was started in 1968.  More than 2,000 boats and 750 bank anglers were counted during an aerial survey on a recent Saturday, a clear sign that this year’s spring chinook fishery had finally shifted into high gear.

“The run is really starting to ramp up now,” said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.  “Anglers have been catching some nice fish throughout the lower river.  If you’ve been planning to go, now is a good time to do it.”

According to the pre-season forecast, 559,900 spring chinook salmon – 470,000 of which are upriver bound – will return to the Columbia River and its tributaries this year, the largest run since at least 1938.

Hymer noted, however, that anglers planning to join the spring chinook fishery in the days ahead should be aware of changes in fishing rules and in river conditions.

* Fishing seasons:   April 3 is the last day to catch spring chinook from the I-5 Bridge upriver to Bonneville Dam – at least until fishery managers complete an in-season assessment of the run in early May. However, the spring chinook fishery will remain open from Buoy 10 to the I-5 Bridge seven days a week through April 18.

* River conditions:   Heavy rain during the last week in March has increased turbidity in some tributaries to the Columbia River. “That makes fishing conditions – especially at the mouths of the tributaries – a little tougher,” Hymer said.  “In general, I’d suggest fishing in shallower water away from river mouths, and trolling with a flasher/dodger to increase visibility.”

Anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam may retain one adult spring chinook salmon a day, while those fishing above the dam can keep two per day. As in previous years, only hatchery-reared fish marked with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained.  All wild spring chinook, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released unharmed.

In a creel survey conducted during the last full week of March, 3,272 boat anglers in 1,396 boats reported catching 658 adult hatchery chinook and six hatchery steelhead.  The 395 bank anglers surveyed that week had 35 adult chinook and two steelhead.  Approximately 71 percent of the fish sampled were identified as upriver stocks.

Anglers fishing tributaries to the lower Columbia are also catching increasing numbers of spring chinook, along with some late winter-run and early-arriving summer steelhead .  The Cowlitz and Kalama rivers are providing some action for both species, although fishing on the Lewis River remains slow, Hymer said.

Few spring chinook were caught above Bonneville Dam through March, but that will certainly change as more fish start moving past the dam, Hymer said.  The fishery is open seven days per week from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam, with a daily limit of two hatchery chinook, two hatchery steelhead, or one of each.  Bank fishing only is permitted from Bonneville Dam to Tower Island powerlines, located about six miles below The Dalles Dam.

Starting April 3, the Klickitat River opens for spring chinook fishing four days per week – Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays – from the Fisher Hill Bridge downstream.  The daily limit there, and on the lower Wind River and Drano Lake, is two hatchery chinook, hatchery steelhead, or one of each.

Anglers can check fish counts at the dam on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/op/fishdata/home.asp .

Fishing for sturgeon has been slow in the lower Columbia River and in The Dalles Pool, the only area between Bonneville and McNary dams open to sturgeon retention.  Boat anglers have, however, been catching some walleye in The Dalles Pool.

Shell-aficionados should be aware that WDFW is tentatively planning a morning razor-clam dig at Long Beach and other ocean beaches in mid-April.  If marine toxin tests show the clams area safe to eat, the dig will take place on the following days and beaches:

* Friday, April 16, (8:32 a.m., -0.7) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Saturday, April 17, (9:12 a.m., -0.7) Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch only
* Sunday, April 18, (9:56 a.m., -0.6) Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch only


Early spring fishing continues to be good at lakes that are open in the region. The seven Tucannon River impoundments in southeast’s Columbia County – Beaver, Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring, and Watson lakes – are well-stocked with rainbow trout from WDFW’s Tucannon and Lyons Ferry fish hatcheries.

Amber, Downs, Liberty and Medical lakes in Spokane County are all producing rainbow catches. The access dock was just restored at Liberty Lake, near the town of the same name in the far eastern part of the county. Docks were also just re-installed at year-round Newman Lake, also on the east end of the county, and Eloika Lake, north of Chattaroy in the north end of the county.

Fishing has been good for both rainbow and brown trout at Rock Lake in Whitman County. Anglers are reeling in some nice-size rainbows at Sprague Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line. And rainbows and kokanee are the catch of the day at Lake Roosevelt.

April 15 is the deadline to register kids five to 14 years of age for the May 1 Kids’ Fish-In event at Clear Lake in southwest Spokane County. The cost is $5 each, which includes a T-shirt, rod and reel, and help to catch up to three rainbow trout. The 45-minute fishing sessions take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fairchild Air Force Base access site on Clear Lake. The event is sponsored by WDFW, Go Play Outside Alliance of Washington (GoPAW), Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Spokane Fly Fishers, Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club, Spokane Walleye Club, Fairchild AFB Outdoor Recreation program, White Elephant, Zebco and Eagle Claw.  Registration forms are available at WDFW’s Spokane Valley office at 2315 N. Discovery Place, 509-892-1001; or online at http://www.gopaw.org/kids_fish-in_program .

Steelhead retention on the Snake River and most tributaries ends March 31. Grande Ronde River steelheading continues through April 15.

The single, biggest lake fishing opener is coming up April 24, mostly on waters that were stocked last year with hatchery trout fry that have been growing to catchable-size over the winter. But WDFW fish hatchery crews are also busy stocking lakes with catchables and surplus broodstock in some lakes to boost fishing opportunities on the opener. Watch for this year’s stocking plan to be posted soon on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html .


The “April Fools” opener on more than 30 waters in the Columbia Basin should provides some fair to good fishing on rainbow trout and other species.

WDFW district fish biologist Chad Jackson says most of the waters opening April 1 are either within or adjacent to the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge south of Potholes Reservoir, and over half are planted with spring and/or fall rainbow trout fry.

“Although many of these lakes are in need of rehabilitation to rid them of competing fish species, nice sized trout can be found,” Jackson said.

The Upper and Lower Hampton lakes historically produce quality fishing on the opener for 12-14-inch yearling trout.  Jackson says that while trout size is still fairly good at the Hamptons, total trout abundance is not nearly as good. Last spring Upper was planted with 26,500 trout fry and Lower with 5,000 trout fry.  Lower Hampton Lake also received a trout fry plant of 4,500 in the fall.

“Both of the Hampton lakes were rehabilitated roughly six years ago,” Jackson said, “but sunfish and other warmwater species appear to have established themselves once again.  These species impact trout fry survival by competing for the same food resources.  To confound things, cormorants (fish-eating birds) have been known to prey upon trout in some years.”

Jackson said anglers looking to maximize catch rates should fish Lower Hampton Lake, where they’ll find two different size classes of trout available for harvest — 8-10 inches and 11-13 inches.  Anglers looking to harvest larger fish should hike into Upper Hampton Lake and, if possible, fish it from a small boat or float tube.  Yearling trout in Upper Hampton Lake range in size from 12 to 14 inches.

“Hampton anglers may also want to try Hen Lake,” Jackson said, referring to the small lake connected to Lower Hampton Lake.  Hen Lake receives 750 rainbow trout fry in the spring, and if fry survival is good, they should be around 12 inches in length.”

Jackson said those who traditionally fish North and South Teal Lakes on the April 1 opener should not expect the excellent fishing found there in the past. Both lakes are in need of rehabilitation, but both lakes were also stocked with approximately 5,000 trout fry in the spring. Anglers should expect to catch a few nice12-14-inch yearlings and 16-inch and greater carryovers.

The Pillar-Widgeon lake chain, also opening April 1, includes (running north to south) Pillar, Gadwall, Snipe, Shoveler, Cattail, Poacher, Lemna, Hourglass, Sago, and Widgeon lakes.  Jackson said all are stocked with rainbow trout fry during the spring.  Total trout fry stocked in each lake is as follows:  Pillar – 2,500, Gadwall – 750, Snipe -600, Shoveler – 750, Cattail – 1,500, Poacher -150, Lemna – 450, Hourglass – 300, Sago – 300, and Widgeon – 1,650.  Access to this chain of small lakes is located just southeast of Soda Lake.

“Anglers looking to fish the Pillar-Widgeon lakes should visit either the entire chain or at least three or four of the lakes during their outing,” Jackson said. “If you’re persistent, expect to catch some very nice sized yearling and carryover trout. Shore fishing is available at most of these lakes, but I advise packing a float tube because it will increase your chances for success. Usually the best lakes in the chain tend to be Widgeon, Sago, and Pillar, but don’t ignore the other lakes.”

Jackson says some of the Columbia Refuge area lakes also offer excellent fishing for warmwater species, particularly Hutchinson and Shiner lakes. Since their rehabilitations in 1997, these two lakes have developed into quality fisheries for largemouth bass and bluegill .  Anglers should note that only non-motorized boats are allowed on these two lakes.

Other warmwater fishing options are the Coyote, Bobcat, and Hayes creek ponds located just south of Morgan and Halfmoon lakes.  Jackson says these ponds are relatively small and shallow, so they warm up quickly, and offer good fishing for largemouth bass.  Another option might be Deadman Lake located just off McManamon Road next to Halfmoon Lake.

Anglers who plan on fishing the refuge area lakes, especially the hike-in ones, should remember that with the unseasonably warm weather has rattlesnakes out earlier and in greater numbers than normal.

Also opening on April 1 is Dry Falls Lake, located just northeast of Park Lake within the Sun Lakes State Park southwest of Coulee City. The 99-acre lake is under selective gear rules and a one-trout daily bag limit.

“Opening day success at Dry Falls in previous years was a little slow because of cold weather,” Jackson said. “But this year abnormally warmer air temperatures are heating up the lake much quicker and it may fish better on this year’s opener. I expect anglers to take 13-14-inch yearling rainbows and carryovers up to 24 inches, just like the last two years.”

Brown and tiger trout are also planted into Dry Falls Lake. Jackson reported that a total of 9,900 rainbow, 1,000 tiger, and 1,000 brown trout fry were stocked into Dry Falls Lake in 2009.

WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp said Spectacle Lake opens for fishing April 1, and anglers can expect rainbow trout in the 10-13-inch range, with carryover fish to 15 inches.  There is a five fish daily catch limit and bait is allowed at Spectacle.  Jateff reminds anglers that when fishing with bait, the first five fish count as part of the daily limit, whether kept or released.

Jateff also reminds anglers that some Okanogan County lakes switch to catch-and-release trout fishing on April 1 — Rat near Brewster, Big and Little Green near Omak, and Davis and Campbell near Winthrop.  Selective gear rules are in effect for all of these lakes and the use of boats with internal combustion engines is prohibited.  Anglers must also use a knotless net to land fish.

WDFW fish biologist Matt Polacek reports the latest creel survey at Banks Lake shows decent catch rates on yellow perch and fair size on walleye . Anglers last surveyed at this Columbia River reservoir southwest of Grand Coulee averaged 3.28 perch that averaged 7.75 inches per hour of fishing. Walleye anglers caught fish that averaged almost 18 inches at a rate of about one walleye for every three hours of fishing. Anglers surveyed also averaged 1.2 black crappie of about 11 inches each per hour of fishing, and about one rainbow trout of about 16 inches for every two hours of fishing.

WDFW fish hatchery specialist Mike Erickson reports recently fishing Rufus Woods Reservoir and doing “very well” near the rainbow trout net pens and other areas in the waterway on the Douglas-Okanogan county line. “This is an outstanding fishery,” Erickson said. “With a group of six people in two boats, we had to work for the fish but came out with limits two days in a row.”


WDFW district fish biologist Paul Hoffarth of Pasco reminds anglers that steelhead fishing closes March 31 in many areas of eastern Washington. However, a one-mile section of shoreline in the Columbia River adjacent to WDFW’s Ringold Hatchery will remain open through April 15.

“This fishery is open to bank angling only,” said Hoffarth, noting that the daily catch limit is two hatchery-marked  steelhead.

Rainbow trout were recently planted in Dalton Lake, Quarry Pond, Columbia Park Pond (a juvenile-only water), and Marmes Pond in the Tri-Cities area. In addition, Dalton Lake and Powerline Lake will be planted with triploid trout by mid-April.

Hoffarth said fishing for walleye, smallmouth bass, and channel catfish has been slow in recent days, but should pick up in the Columbia River, Walla Walla River, and Yakima River in the next couple of weeks.

April 19 is the deadline to register for the Tri-Cities Kids Fishing Event scheduled for May 1. For more information and registration forms, contact Kennewick Recreation at 509-585-4293 or online at http://www.ci.kennewick.wa.us/Recreational_Services/home.asp .

WDFW district fish biologist Eric Anderson of Yakima reports that all Yakima and Kittitas county year-round ponds are seeing heavy fishing action from earlier hatchery trout stocking.  The I-82 ponds #1, 2, and 3 each recently received nearly 2,500 rainbows weighing nearly a half-pound apiece. See all of the continuing hatchery stocking of local fisheries at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/weekly/ .

As warmer spring conditions advance and more and different fish are biting, it’s a good time to take advantage of the new two-pole fishing opportunity.  Most fisheries in the southcentral region are open to the use of a second pole with the purchase of the two-pole endorsement – $24.50 with all surcharges and license dealer fees, $6.50 for seniors. For a list of excluded fisheries and all the details, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/twopole .


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