What’s Fishin’ In Washington

Springers biting in Southwest, South-central and Southeast Washington, more trout heading for North Sound waters, anglers battling good numbers of halibut in the Straits, good rainbow action in North-central and the far eastern part of the state, shrimping in South Sound — why, there’s something for every sort of Evergreen State anglers right now.

Here’s a roundup ripped straight from WDFW’s Weekender:

NORTH PUGET SOUND

Spring fisheries are under way and anglers have their pick of several fishing opportunities in the region. Halibut and lingcod seasons are open, shrimping is still an option in one marine area and hungry trout are biting at many of the region’s lakes.

WDFW is adding more trout this month to several of those lakes, including Lone Lake in Island County; Green, Meridian and Sawyer lakes in King County; Mountain Lake in San Juan County; Pass, Campbell and Vogler lakes in Skagit County; Gissburg Lake in Snohomish County; and Squalicum and Toad lakes in Whatcom County.

Under statewide rules, anglers have a daily limit of five trout on most lakes. Released legal-sized trout, caught with bait, count toward the daily bag limit. Complete information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/

Anglers should be aware that Rattlesnake Lake in King County, which opened to trout fishing April 24 with a five-fish limit, switched to a year-round, catch-and-release fishery May 1. Selective gear rules still apply.

On Puget Sound, anglers are hooking some nice lingcod . Catch counts at the Armeni Ramp indicate 15 anglers caught nine lingcod May 8 and seven anglers checked five lings the following day. Elsewhere, seven anglers at the Edmonds sling brought home six lingcod May 5, while 39 anglers checked at the Everett ramp caught seven lings May 9. During the hook-and-line season (May 1-June 15), there’s a one-fish daily limit for lings, with a minimum size of 26 inches and a maximum size of 36 inches.

The halibut season also is under way. The season is scheduled to run through May 30 in marine areas 6-10, where fishing will be open three days a week – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – and closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when those marine areas will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Anglers have a daily limit of one halibut and there is no minimum size limit.

Shrimping is still an option in the north Sound, but only in Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), which will be open May 21 and 22. Shrimp fisheries in marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner), 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) are closed. More details on the shrimp fishery are available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/shrimpreg/ .

Before heading out, anglers should check the rules and regulations for all fisheries on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations .

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

Halibut, shrimp, lingcod, clams and trout dominated fishing in the first half of May and – with rivers set to open the first Saturday in June – the good times are just beginning.

CALEB ASHER, 4, SHOWS OFF A PAIR OF 20-PLUS-INCHE RAINBOWS FROM TEAL LAKE IN JEFFERSON COUNTY. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Bad weather and nasty ocean conditions during parts of the razor-clam season last fall and winter will pay dividends May 15-16 when up to four ocean beaches will open for one last dig. Normally the diggers have met the annual beach harvest quotas by now, but this season’s slow start left enough clams for another May outing. The openings will begin on morning tides on the following beaches and end both days at noon:

* Saturday, May 15, 8:15 a.m., -1.6 ft.: Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks
* Sunday, May 16, 8:58 a.m., -1.6 ft.: Long Beach, Twin Harbors only

Kalaloch beach in Olympic National Park will remain closed to clam digging both days.

Diggers should be aware that portions of the beach at Long Beach and Twin Harbors are closed to the public to protect nesting western snowy plovers, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The closed portion at each beach includes the area above the mean high tide line. At Long Beach, the closed areas are located north of the Oysterville Road from the state park boundary north to Leadbetter Point. At Twin Harbors, the closed areas are located from just south of Midway Beach Road to the first beach-access trail at Grayland Beach State Park. Clam diggers are reminded that the entire northern section of Long Beach is closed to all driving starting at noon each day during this razor-clam opener.

Dan Ayres, WDFW’s coastal shellfish manager, estimates that by the time this dig closes 4 million razor-clams will have been harvested from Washington beaches. That is up considerably from the 2.9 million average for the past 10 years. So, too, is the number of diggers. Since the season opened last October, approximately 300,000 trips were made to dig clams, well over the 10-year average of 239,000 digger trips.

Shrimpers will also get another crack at a daily limit this month in Discovery Bay and in Marine Area 11 (Tacoma/Vashon).  After the catch for the initial openings in those areas, WDFW extended the season on the following days:

* Discovery Bay Shrimp District :  7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, May 20, and Saturday, May 22.
* Marine Area 11 :  7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, May 20

Discovery Bay opened to shrimping May 1 and May 5 for the first time since the season closed in 2005.  However, shrimping was fairly slow, allowing shrimpers additional time on the water.

The best shrimping earlier this month was on Hood Canal where Mark O’Toole, WDFW’s Puget Sound shrimp management biologist, described the season this way: “Last Wednesday 85 percent of the boats limited. Shrimping just doesn’t get any better than that.”

In the three days it was open nearly 68,000 lbs. of shrimp were hauled in from Hood Canal, so it looks like Wednesday, May 12 will be the final day of the fishery. The abundance of shrimp wasn’t unexpected. When test pots were hauled up from Hood Canal in April they contained more shrimp then had been seen in pots there for the past decade.

Shrimping rules are published in the state’s annual Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which is sold in stores that sell fishing licenses. That information is also available on WDFW’s web site at ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations ).

On the coast, halibut fishing also proved productive, once the weather improved.  “Rough weather delayed the openings at Ilwaco, but once the weather improved the fishing was pretty good,” said Heather Reed, WDFW’s coastal marine resources policy coordinator. “At Ilwaco they averaged a half a fish per person, and the halibut were good size, averaging 23 lbs. There was great fishing out of Westport, but the fish were smaller – about 14 lbs. Neah Bay opens Thursday (May 13) and Port Angeles is going gangbusters.”

At the end of this month, the Port Angeles Salmon Club will hold its annual Halibut Derby over Memorial Day weekend, May 29-30. The entry fee is $40, with $20,000 in prizes. To learn more go to http://www.olympicpeninsula.org/event/halibut-derby )

Halibut openings for Washington’s marine areas are:

* Columbia River (Ilwaco): Marine Area 1 opened May 1, and will remain open three days a week, Thursday through Saturday until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or through July 18. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 6 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or through Sept. 26, whichever occurs first. The 2010 catch quota is 13,436 pounds.
* South Coast (Westport/Ocean Shores): Marine Area 2 opened May 2, two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays. During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open Sunday only (May 23). Beginning the following week the fishery will resume the Sunday, Tuesday structure until the quota is reached. The northern nearshore area opened May 2, seven days per week and will remain open until the quota is reached. The 2010 catch quota is 35,887 pounds.
* North Coast (La Push/Neah Bay): Marine areas 3 and 4 will open on May 13, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 22. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen June 3 and 5. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 17. The 2010 catch quota is 101,179 pounds.
* Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound: Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 28 through June 19. Marine areas 6 through 10 (Strait, Port Angeles Admiralty Inlet and Everett) will be open May 1 through May 30. These fisheries will be open three days a week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The 2010 combined catch quota for these areas is 50,542 pounds.

Anglers should be aware of a couple of changes in effect for the first time this year in Marine Area 2. The retention of lingcod seaward of the 30 fathom line will be allowed on days that the primary halibut season is open. Also, the boundary of the northern nearshore area has changed so that it lines up with the coordinates of the 30-fathom line.  The northern nearshore area will go from 47 31.70 N. lat south to 46 58.00 N. lat and east of the 30 fathom line.

In the Strait and Puget Sound, the halibut and lingcod fishing was best up north. Creel counts at the Ediz Hook boat launch in Port Angeles had 258 anglers catching 147 halibut on May 7. The following day, at the same boat launch, creel counts showed 210 anglers with 68 halibut.

In the north Sound, anglers were having luck catching Pacific halibut, lingcod and kelp greenling off the Coronet Bay public ramp. In south and central Puget Sound, fishing was slow to non-existent.

With better weather, fishing for lingcod continues to improve off the coast, says Erica Crust, WDFW’s ocean port sampler. Crust observes that private boats have begun venturing out, and the catch rate on charter boats continues to be good.

Crust reminds anglers that recreational fishing for bottomfish (excluding lingcod during halibut season) is not allowed in waters deeper than 30 fathoms in Marine Area 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) from March 15 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/fishing/regulations .

On Saturday (May 15), hundreds of kids will show up at American Lake Park in Lakewood for this year’s Kid’s Fish-In event. For $10, kids 14 and under get a Zebco rod and reel, which they get to keep, a Kids’ Fish-In tee shirt and time on American Lake to catch a couple of good size trout. Pre-registration was required, but in the days leading up to the fish-in there were still time slots available. To learn more, or to sign up for the event, go to ( http://www.gopaw.org/kids_fish-in_program ) or call (253) 983-7887. Or, say Lakewood Parks and Recreation officials, just show up Saturday.

To view which lakes have been stocked by WDFW, or soon will be, click on ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/ .  For tips on fishing options by water and county go to ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/prospects/ ).

SOUTHWEST

The spring chinook fishery is now closed on the mainstem Columbia River from the mouth to McNary Dam, but anglers are still catching springers on a number of tributaries to the big river.  In addition, sport fishing opens May 16 for hatchery steelhead and hatchery jack chinook below the Interstate 5 Bridge and for shad below Bonneville Dam.

Anglers will be allowed to catch and keep up to two hatchery steelhead as part of their six-salmonid daily limit in the mainstem Columbia. Shad don’t count, since there’s no daily limit or minimum size.

Meanwhile, there’s still a chance that the sport fishery could reopen for spring chinook on the Columbia, but only if the number of fish counted at Bonneville Dam significantly exceeds current expectations, said Guy Norman, WDFW regional manager for southwest Washington.

“Given the catch to date, it doesn’t look like there’s room for more sport opportunity,” Norman said.  “The run will have to bust out of the range on the high side to provide more opportunity.”

Norman’s comments were based on a new run-size forecast of 350,000 upriver spring chinook, with a range of 330,000 to 370,000 fish.  The update is down from the pre-season forecast of 470,000, but would still represent the second or third-largest upriver run since at least 1938. The record is 440,000 fish in 2001 followed by the next year with nearly 335,000 fish.

Lower river anglers caught 23,533 upriver spring chinook by the time fishing ended April 18. The catch above Bonneville Dam was expected to reach 3,400 fish by May 10, when fishing came to a close.

Among the tributaries, Drano Lake was still the hotspot during the week ending May 9, when creel checks found that just over half of the boat anglers took home a spring chinook under crowded conditions.   Bank anglers averaged a fish for every 3.5 rods. Anglers are reminded the lake is closed to all fishing on Wednesdays through May.

Bank angling was slow on the Wind River last week, but just over 40 percent of the boat anglers caught a spring chinook.  Conditions can also get crowded on the Wind, although fishing is now open above Shipherd Falls, helping to relieve some of the pressure.  Fishing above the falls is open upstream to within 800 yards of the Carson National Fish Hatchery, but is closed 400 feet below the coffer dam and 100 feet upstream of the coffer dam.

Elsewhere, anglers have been catching a mix of hatchery spring chinook and hatchery summer-run steelhead on the Kalama, Lewis, Cowlitz and Klickitat rivers.  Deep River recently re-opened from the mouth to town bridge, providing additional fishing opportunities for both species. Lake Scanewa, on the upper Cowlitz River, is also now open for hatchery spring chinook fishing. The lower East Fork Lewis and Washougal rivers are open to fishing for hatchery summer run steelhead under selective gear rules (no bait) until the general season begins in early June.

Daily limits for anglers fishing the Cowlitz, Lewis and Kalama rivers include up to two marked adult chinook, plus two marked adult steelhead.  Anglers can take two hatchery chinook or two hatchery steelhead or one of each at the Wind River, Klickitat River or Drano Lake.  In all cases (except the upper Wind River), unmarked wild fish must be released.

Mark-selective fishing rules will also be in place during the summer chinook fishery, which opens June 16 from the mouth of the Columbia River to Priest Rapids Dam.  Anglers will be allowed to keep up to two marked hatchery fish but will be required to release any wild summer chinook they intercept.

With 89,000 summer chinook expected this year, fishery managers hope to keep the fishery open from mid-June through July, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.  Moving to a selective fishery will help ensure a full season, while preserving wild broodstock for the new Chief Joseph Hatchery, scheduled to open in 2012, he said.

Starting May 22, fishing for white sturgeon will open seven days per week through late June below the Wauna powerlines on the mainstem Columbia River. The daily limit is one fish with a minimum fork length of 41 inches and a maximum of 54 inches.  Hymer said sturgeon fishing has been picking up above the Wauna powerlines, where more than a hundred boats and 62 bank anglers were counted during a recent overflight.

Above Wauna, anglers may retain one white sturgeon per day between 38 inches and 54 inches in fork length on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.  Anglers are reminded Bonneville Dam downstream 9 miles to Marker 82 is closed to fishing for sturgeon and Sand Island Slough near Rooster Rock is closed to fishing for all species including sturgeon.

In The Dalles Pool, boat anglers have been catching bass and walleye , while those fishing Merwin and Yale reservoirs have been reeling in kokanee .  Anglers with an appetite for trout should be aware that the following waters were stocked during the first week of May:

* Fort Borst Park Pond near Centralia: 2,019 catchable size rainbows.
* Lewis Co. Park Pond near Toledo: 580 triploid trout averaging 1.5 pounds each.
* Lake Sacajawea in Longview: 2,222 catchable size rainbows.

LARGEMOUTH ARE BEGINNING TO GUARD THEIR NESTS AROUND WASHINGTON. CHRIS SPENCER OF LONGVIEW CAUGHT THIS 19-INCHER YESTERDAY. (CHRIS SPENCER)

EASTERN

Glen Mendel, WDFW district fish biologist in Dayton, said the latest creel checks show hatchery spring chinook salmon fishing on the Snake River is starting to pick up in the Clarkston area.

The last check in the Ice Harbor Dam area shows 11 shore anglers with one harvested hatchery chinook for an average catch rate of 66 hours per fish, and nine boat anglers with two harvested hatchery chinook and one released wild chinook for an average catch rate of 42 hours per kept fish.  About 300 chinook have been harvested in the fishery since it opened April 20.

Creel checks in the Little Goose Dam area show 44 anglers on the “wall” (walkway area in front of the juvenile fish collection facility near the dam) with seven harvested hatchery chinook and one released wild chinook for an average catch rate of 29 hours per fish kept; 71 shore anglers with 13 harvested hatchery chinook and eight released wild chinook for an average catch rate of 33 hours per kept fish; and 16 boat anglers with no fish.

Meanwhile, creel checks in the Lower Granite Dam area show seven shore anglers with no fish and three boat anglers with one released wild chinook. The Clarkston area fishery check showed five shore anglers with one harvested hatchery chinook for an average catch rate of about nine hours per fish kept, and 23 boat anglers with three harvested hatchery chinook for an average catch rate of 36 hours per fish kept.

Mendel notes that updates on run numbers are expected soon. Anglers should check WDFW’s website for any changes in the fishery.

Only hatchery-marked (adipose-fin-clipped) chinook of at least 12 inches can be retained in these fisheries, with a daily catch limit of two adults and four jacks (less than 24 inches). One exception on the catch limit is in the area near Little Goose Dam, including the “wall,” where only one jack and one adult can be retained. All steelhead and all wild chinook must be released immediately. Barbless hooks no larger than 5/8-inch from point to shank are required for all species except sturgeon. See all the rule details at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=887 .

Rainbow trout fishing continues to be productive at many of the region’s well-stocked waters.  WDFW Spokane Fish Hatchery Manager Ace Trump recently reported seeing five-fish limits reeled in within three to four hours by a couple of anglers at southern Stevens County’s Deer Lake. “They were pulling plugs and fishing between four and 12 feet down and staying in around 15 feet of water,” Trump said.  “They picked up most of their fish in the narrows.  I was pulling plugs at around 18 to 20 feet down in 22 to 30 feet of water and picked up one rainbow and two fairly nice lake trout .”

WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Manager Juli Anderson said rainbows are biting at the area’s walk-in-only Z-Lake. Anderson reminds anglers that rattlesnakes and ticks are out now with warmer weather, so be prepared.

NORTH-CENTRAL

With an expectation of about 11,000 spring chinook salmon on their way to the Icicle River in Chelan County, a fishery will begin May 13 on a section of that waterway.

WDFW Northcentral region fish program manager Jeff Korth says up to two salmon of 12-inch minimum size can be harvested daily in the Icicle River from the closure signs located 800 feet upstream of the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam.

Korth says that although upper Columbia River spring chinook have been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the salmon returning to the Icicle River are not listed under the ESA.  With about 1,000 salmon needed for hatchery broodstock, the size of this year’s run means remaining fish will be available for harvest.  A night closure will be in effect. Anglers must release fish with one or more round holes punched in the tail of the fish (caudal fin).  These fish are part of a study and have been anesthetized so there is a 21-day ban on consumption of these fish.

The Icicle salmon fishery is expected to run through July 31.

WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp reports that despite recent cooler weather, Pearrygin Lake, Conconully Reservoir and Conconully Lake continue to provide good fishing for rainbow trout.  Most fish coming out of those waters are running 10-12 inches with winter-carryover fish up to 15 inches.  WDFW Enforcement Officer Cal Treser recently checked shore fishermen on Pearrygin who averaged two fish each.

Jateff also reports selective-gear-rule lakes such as Big Twin and the Sinlahekin’s Blue are producing good catches of rainbows in the 12-16 inch range.  Rat Lake, near the town of Brewster, is catch-and-release-only under selective gear rules and can provide some very fast fishing for rainbows 10-14 inches, plus a few brown trout .  Aeneas is a fly fishing only lake, but is producing excellent catches of rainbow in the 14-16 inch range in addition to brown trout up to 18 inches.

Treser also reported shore anglers at year-round Patterson Lake, west of Winthrop, were recently using Powerbait to catch trout. A boat angler on Patterson was catching a lot of yellow perch .

“Fishermen need to remember to pick up their waste fishing line and lure wrappers,” Treser said. “I have had a couple of birds recently entangled by fishing line, including one loon.”

SOUTH-CENTRAL

Fishing for spring chinook salmon is closed from the mouth of the Columbia River to McNary Dam, but anglers are catching an increasing number of springers in the Yakima River.

Paul Hoffarth, WDFW district fish biologist from Pasco, reports that an estimated 20 hatchery spring chinooks were harvested in the lower Yakima River during the week ending May 9. In addition, eight wild chinook were caught and released. Anglers averaged 39 hours per chinook, up slightly from a year ago.

Creel reports indicate an estimated 225 adult hatchery marked (clipped fin) spring chinook were harvested at Ringold for the week of May 3-9.  An estimated 44 wild chinook were caught and released.  WDFW staff interviewed 166 anglers, 18 percent of the effort during the week. Anglers averaged one chinook for 17 hours of fishing, eight hours better than a year ago. For the season, 301 hatchery steelhead have been harvested.

Hoffarth reminds anglers that, because of budget cuts, this will be the last spring chinook fishery at the Ringold. It will remain open for hatchery steelhead and other species.

The daily limit is two hatchery-marked chinook (clipped and healed adipose fin) of at least 12 inches. Wild salmon (adipose fin intact) must be immediately released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release. Gear is restricted to one, single-point, barbless hook with a hook gap from point to shank of 3/4 inch or less.  Use of bait is allowed. Fishing for steelhead remains closed. All steelhead must be immediately released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release. For all rule details, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations .

Eric Anderson, WDFW’s district fish biologist for Yakima and Kittitas counties says there have been lots of anglers on the Yakima River, and that fishing has begun to pick up after a slow start.

“We’re seeing more fish in the river,” said Anderson. “Just yesterday (May 11) anglers kept six hatchery fish and released seven wild salmon. The hatchery is continuing to stock catchable-size trout in area lakes and ponds.”

Many of the region’s lakes are open and stocked year-round. A schedule of all lake trout stocking can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/stocking/weekly/ .

Anderson and Hoffarth remind anglers that many streams in central and eastern Washington will remain closed until the June 5 opener to protect downstream migrating salmon and steelhead smolts and spawning trout and steelhead.

Anderson and Hoffarth note that the Yakima Greenway Path and several boat launches provide excellent access to the Yakima River from Selah to Union Gap. Maps can be found at http://www.yakimagreenway.org/map.html.
There is also access at Harrison Road and from the Yakima Canyon Highway above Harrison Road. Boaters should be aware that the river can be a challenge to float, particularly from the Terrace Heights Bridge down to Century Landing at Union Gap. For the lower reach of the Yakima, access maps are posted at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/salmon/when_where_best_area-yakima.htm .

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