This spring’s weather has produced a mixed bag of good news, bad news for Washington anglers.
High rivers and rough seas are the bad for salmon and steelhead anglers while cool weather has kept trout lakes, well, cool and productive.
But as we slide into July, fishermen will get a new target: crab. Dungies open in most of Puget Sound, as do hatchery Chinook in the Straits.
Here’s more on what’s fishing around Washington, courtesy of WDFW’s Weekender:
NORTH PUGET SOUND
Fishing has been slow for anglers on the saltwater, but catch numbers could rise as more marine areas open for salmon in July. On the rivers, anglers continue to cast for steelhead and spring chinook, and some have recently hooked a few nice fish.
Meanwhile, the crab fishery opens July 1 in marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island) and 12 (Hood Canal). Fisheries in those areas will be open on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule, plus the entire Labor Day weekend.
The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. See WDFW’s sport-crabbing website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab/ ) for more information.
In Marine Area 8-2, fishing continues to be slow at the Tulalip Bay “bubble” fishery , said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. The fishery is currently open each week from Friday through noon Monday through Sept. 6. Anglers fishing the bubble have a two-salmon daily limit. Chinook must measure 22 inches in length to retain.
The catch-and-release salmon fishery in the northern portion of Marine Area 10 continues through June 30. However, beginning July 1, anglers fishing in the marine area can retain up to two salmon daily with no minimum size limit. Anglers must release chinook salmon.
Another option is Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), which also opens July 1 for salmon. Anglers will have a daily limit of two salmon but can only keep one chinook. “The San Juans really started off strong last year,” Thiesfeld said. “Hopefully, the opener will be just as good this year.”
Looking for some competition? The Bellingham Salmon Derby is scheduled for July 9-11 with a top prize of $5,000. For more information on the derby, which is hosted by the Bellingham Chapter of the Puget Sound Anglers in association with the Northwest Marine Trade Association, is available at http://www.bellinghampsa.com/derby.htm .
In freshwater, portions of the Skagit, Cascade and Skykomish rivers are open for hatchery chinook salmon fishing. The Skagit is open to hatchery chinook retention from the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to the Cascade River. On the Cascade, anglers can fish for salmon from the mouth of the river to the Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge. Both stretches are open through July 15. The daily limit on the Skagit and Cascade rivers is four hatchery chinook, two of which may be adults (chinook salmon at least 24 inches in length).
The Skykomish is open from the mouth to the Wallace River through July 31. Anglers fishing that portion of the river have a daily limit of two hatchery chinook salmon. Jennifer Whitney, WDFW regional fish biologist, advises anglers to keep checking WDFW’s website for information about potential fishing regulation changes on the Skykomish River. “Returns to the Wallace River Hatchery so far have been way down this year,” she said. “We will continue to watch this run closely and if it doesn’t improve we may need to close the river to salmon retention to ensure the hatchery gets enough fish to meet its spawning goals.”
The Reiter Ponds section of the Skykomish River is also open for fishing and some anglers have had success hooking hatchery steelhead there recently. That section of the river (1,500 feet upstream to 1,000 feet downstream of the Reiter Ponds Hatchery outlet) opened June 12 after the hatchery collected enough steelhead broodstock to meet spawning goals.
Anglers should be aware that a section of the South Fork Stillaguamish River was mistakenly omitted from the new sportfishing rules pamphlet. That section of the Stillaguamish, from Mountain Loop Highway Bridge upstream, opened for gamefish June 5. Fishing regulations include catch and release, except two hatchery steelhead may be retained. Selective gear rules also apply, and fishing from a floating device with a motor is prohibited.
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
Anglers will have more options to catch salmon in the days ahead as coastal area open to retention of hatchery coho and unmarked chinook, and new fisheries open on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Crabbers will also be able to drop pots in seven popular areas of Puget Sound, starting July1.
Through June 20, salmon anglers had caught 2,759 marked chinook salmon in the state’s first selective chinook fishery off the Washington coast. All but a few hundred of those fish were taken in Marine Area 2 (Westport), where three in four anglers took home a fish. Mark rates for chinook have been averaging about 70 percent.
“The ocean fishery has been up and down from one day to the next, but anglers have definitely been taking home some nice chinook salmon,” said Doug Milward, WDFW ocean fisheries manager. “Chinook caught off Westport have been averaging around 15 pounds, which is big for this point in the season.”
Starting July 4, anglers fishing off Westport will also be able to count hatchery coho and unmarked chinook toward their daily limit. The new rule will take effect July 1 in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay).
“Like the chinook, this year’s coho have been bigger than usual,” Milward said. “This fishery should keep getting better and better.”
Wendy Beeghley, a WDFW fish biologist who monitors the catch, asks that all anglers return completed logbooks after each day’s trip to help fishery managers keep track of the catch. “If you like this fishery, you can help keep it going by filling out the logbook and returning it to WDFW,” she said. Logbooks can be returned to fish checkers or by pre-paid mail.
Elsewhere, a chinook fishery will open in marine areas 5 and 6 (Strait of Juan de Fuca) on July 1. The daily limit in those two areas is two fish at least 22 inches in length. All wild salmon must be released.
Meanwhile, recreational halibut fishing went out with a bang June 19, when anglers fishing off Neah Bay and La Push closed out the season by catching most of what was left of this year’s quota.
The one-day opening, plus good weather, gave coastal anglers the chance to catch both salmon and halibut on the same day, and some took advantage of that unique opportunity, said Erica Crust, WDFW’s ocean port sampler.
Looking ahead, seven popular areas of Puget Sound will open to fishing for crab July 1, including marine areas 6 (Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 8-1 (Deception Pass/Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan/Port Gardner), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), 11 (Tacoma/Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal).
Dungeness and red rock crab seasons include:
* Marine areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 and 13: Opened June 18 and run through Jan. 2.
* Marine areas 6, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10, 11 and 12 (much of Puget Sound) – Will open at 7 a.m., July 1 and are open Wednesday through Saturday through Sept. 6, and open the entire Labor Day weekend.
There is a daily limit of five Dungeness crab in Puget Sound. Minimum size is 6 ¼-inches and only males in hardshell condition may be kept. In the Sound, all gear must be removed from the water on days when the fishery is closed.
The daily limit of red rock crab is six in all marine areas. Minimum size is five inches and either sex may be kept.
Crab fishing rules can be found on pages 137-139 of the 2010-11 edition of Washington’s Sportfishing Rules Pamphlet , which contains maps of all the marine areas and sub-areas. The pamphlet is free and available at the more than 600 stores where hunting and fishing licenses are sold. The pamphlet also can be downloaded from WDFW’s web site at: http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .
Before heading out, crabbers should check for any emergency rule changes adopted since the fishing pamphlet was published. Those changes can be found on WDFW’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ or by calling the Shellfish Rule Change toll-free hotline at (866) 880-5431.
Trout and steelhead fishing got under way June 5 in area rivers, including the Skokomish, South Fork Skokomish and Dungeness. Anglers should note that selective gear rules are in effect on those rivers to protect wild summer steelhead. Details on rules and limits are online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .
Tanwax Lake in Pierce County is off to a good start for largemouth bass and rainbow trout . In Kitsap County, Wildcat, Buck, Island and Wye lakes have all received high marks from anglers fishing for largemouth bass and trout. Duck Lake in Grays Harbor County also has been getting accolades from anglers fishing for trout and crappie .
Summer chinook salmon are entering the lower Columbia River in large numbers, although catching them is proving to be a challenge. High, turbid water and floating debris have been giving anglers – especially boat anglers – a workout during the opening days of the season, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.
“Conditions are definitely tough for boat anglers,” Hymer said. “People have been catching some nice fish, but they have to deal with some extra challenges due to the high water and debris.”
Under these conditions, fishing from the bank has some advantages, Hymer said. During creel checks conducted during the first week of fishing, 1,463 bank anglers caught 62 adult chinook and released 25. The 572 boat anglers checked that week reported catching 33 adult summer chinook salmon and releasing 15 others.
Under new rules effective this year, anglers may retain only hatchery-reared chinook with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar. All wild, unmarked fish must be released. That is also the case with steelhead , which are showing up in the catch from the mouth of the Columbia River to Bonneville Dam.
“The trade-off is that this year’s summer chinook fishery is scheduled to run straight through July, rather than just a couple of weeks like last year,” Hymer said. “That wouldn’t have been possible without moving to a selective fishery.”
During the first week’s creel check, bank anglers reported catching 61 steelhead and releasing 13 others. Boat anglers surveyed that week caught eight steelhead and released five more. Anglers fishing the Cowlitz River have also been catching some hatchery steelhead.
According to the pre-season forecast, 88,800 summer chinook will return to the Columbia this year – the largest number since 2002. About a third of those salmon are estimated to be five-year-olds, some weighing up to 40 pounds.
Under this year’s rules, anglers may retain up to two adult hatchery chinook or hatchery steelhead (or one of each) on the mainstem Columbia River from the Megler Astoria Bridge upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco All other salmon – including sockeye – must be released.
That may change, however, given the unexpectedly large number of sockeye counted at Bonneville Dam in recent days, said Cindy Le Fleur, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator. As of June 22, just over 134,000 sockeye had been tallied at the dam – already more than predicted – and the 26,873 counted the previous day was the second-highest on record for a single day since 1938.
“The rule requiring anglers to release sockeye was adopted because Lake Wenatchee was not expected to reach its escapement goal this year,” Le Fleur said. Given the strong return, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon may reconsider that decision during a teleconference scheduled Thursday (June 24) at 3 p.m.
The scheduled closure of the sturgeon fishery downstream from the Wauna powerlines will also be up for reconsideration during that meeting, Le Fleur said. Sturgeon fishing has been slow in that area – and throughout the lower Columbia River – for a number of weeks, which may allow fishery managers to extend the season, she said.
Any changes in the sockeye retention rule or the sturgeon season below the Wauna powerlines will be announced on WDFW’s website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/ ), the statewide Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500), regional hotline (360-696-6211 ext. 1010) and in a statewide news release.
For anglers hungering for shad , the Dalles Pool is clearly the place to be. During the week ending June 20, bank anglers averaged nine shad per rod although fishing was slow for boat anglers. Below Bonneville Dam, anglers have been averaging between zero and two shad per rod.
Rather catch warmwater fish? Boat anglers fishing The Dalles Pool have been averaging two walleye and a bass per rod. In the John Day Pool, 10 boats reported catching 15 bass and seven walleye.
At Riffe Lake, bank anglers fishing at the dam and Taidnapum have been averaging two landlocked coho per rod, kept or released. Anglers should also be aware that Goose Lake north of Carson was stocked with 2,500 catchable-size brown trout and 3,000 catchable-size cutthroat June 15.
This is the time to fish Lake Roosevelt, including the Spokane River arm, for some of the tastiest freshwater fish – walleye . Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, said walleye are distributing throughout the waterway now that they’ve spawned. The daily catch limit is eight walleye and there’s no minimum size, although only one over 22 inches may be retained.
The Seven Bays area and many other spots upstream on the big reservoir are also good for kokanee and rainbow trout fishing. The daily catch limit for kokanee is six fish, although no more than two can be wild fish. The limit on trout is five, but only two over 20 inches may be retained.
With all three species of fish very catchable, it’s a good time to purchase the new $24.50 two-pole endorsement, which allows anglers to use two poles while fishing at Lake Roosevelt and many other lakes throughout the state. For more information about the endorsement, visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/twopole/ .
Anglers might want to consider spending a weekend camping at one of the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area’s campgrounds – Evans, Fort Spokane, Gifford, Hunters, Keller Ferry, Kettle Falls and Spring Canyon. Most are on a first-come, first-served basis, but groups need to reserve camp sites. For details see http://www.nps.gov/laro/ .
Baker also noted that fishing has been good at many rainbow trout lakes in the northeast district. For example, Pend Oreille County’s Big Meadow Lake, about seven miles west of Ione on the Meadow Creek Road, is yielding catches of up to 16-inch rainbows.
At the opposite end of the region, the Tucannon River impoundments are cranking out catches of hatchery-stocked rainbow trout . The Tucannon River itself, from the mouth to the Tucannon Hatchery bridge, is also open to fishing. Anglers who have purchased the new $8.75 Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement can retain up to three hatchery-marked steelhead from the Tucannon’s open waters through October. Selective gear rules and a prohibition on internal combustion motors are in effect upstream of the Turner Road bridge at Marengo.
WDFW’s W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman said Tucannon lake or river anglers, and other outdoor recreationists who camp on the area, are finding everything very green and lush, thanks to recent rains. But that ample vegetation will be fuel for wild fires soon, so she reminds visitors, including Fourth-of-July holiday celebrants, to comply with the area’s restrictions on fires and a ban on fireworks. All WDFW wildlife areas and water access sites throughout the region are under the same fireworks ban and similar fire restrictions. For details by area, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/ .
Anglers can get a little bit extra out of their fishing license at the Spokane Indians Baseball Club’s fifth annual “Fish and Wildlife Night” on Tuesday, July 6, when game tickets are discounted with the presentation of a valid fishing or hunting license. The game will feature fish and wildlife activities between innings and stadium fish and wildlife displays.
Bob Jateff, WDFW district fish biologist, said lowland lake fishing for rainbow trout has been holding up pretty well in the Okanogan district. “Cooler, wetter weather has been keeping the water temperatures down a bit, and that has contributed to better than average catch rates for the month of June,” he said.
Jateff said good selective-gear waters are Chopaka, Aeneas, and Blue lakes in the Sinlahekin, and Big and Little Twin lakes near Winthrop. Other waters that are still providing decent fishing are Wannacut, Pearrygin, and Alta lakes.
WDFW Enforcement Officer Cal Treser recently reported checking numerous limits of trout on Lake Pearrygin, along with large crayfish. “If you want to try spiny ray fishing, fish Patterson Lake in the Winthrop area for yellow perch and Leader Lake west of Okanogan for bluegills and crappies ,” he said.
Jateff also noted the Methow River is still running high, but as water levels start dropping, resident rainbow and cutthroat trout will be catchable. Smaller creeks and rivers can provide fishing opportunities even when the major rivers like the Methow are still running high. “Anglers should pay close attention to the regulations on the Methow because there have been a few changes this year,” he said.
Chinook salmon fishing on the mainstem Columbia River and selected tributaries above Wells Dam is scheduled to start July 1. New daily bag limits put in place this year will allow anglers to keep up to three adult chinook salmon, but only one of those can be a wild adult. Anglers should consult the current sportfishing rules pamphlet, because there are certain areas that anti-snagging and night closure rules are in effect.
High water contributed to a slow start in the fishery for hatchery summer chinook salmon on the Columbia River downriver from Priest Rapids Dam and for hatchery steelhead downstream from the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco. None of the 60 anglers surveyed in the John Day Pool had caught any salmon or steelhead, although fishing was good for other species.
During the week ending June 20, anglers fishing the John Day Pool caught 259 shad from 15 boats and 15 bass and seven walleye from 10 boats.
“The Columbia, Snake, Yakima and Walla Walla rivers are all running high, improving some fisheries, such as catfish , but making most of the fisheries, especially salmon, problematic,” said Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW fish and wildlife biologist in Pasco.
Hoffarth is optimistic that fishing will pick up for salmon and steelhead as river conditions improve and more summer chinook move past McNary Dam into the mid-Columbia and its tributaries.
Hoffarth reminds anglers that all wild, unmarked chinook salmon and steelhead must be released. The daily limit is six hatchery chinook, up to two of which may be adults. Anglers must stop fishing once they retain the adult portion of their daily limit. Any steelhead retained counts toward the daily limit of two adult fish, Hoffarth said.
Steelhead fishing will remain closed for the Columbia River upstream of the Highway 395 bridge and in the Snake River until the fall.
The spring chinook fishery runs through June 30 on the Yakima, and anglers continue to catch fish in the area between Union Gap and Roza Dam. Surveys indicate that the best fishing is between the Naches River and Roza Dam. There is a daily limit of two hatchery salmon with a clipped adipose fin; wild chinook must be released unharmed.
Water levels in the upper Naches and upper Yakima tributaries are continuing to drop and clear up. Eric Anderson, WDFW fish and wildlife biologist in Yakima, said his trend should continue in the weeks ahead into the summer months, when fishing in most tributaries should be good for wild trout, cutthroat, rainbow and brook trout.
Even though waters in the Columbia and Snake rivers remain high, fishing for smallmouth bass and walleye should improve as those waters recede and get warmer, Anderson said.
Sturgeon fishing remains open in Lake Wallula (McNary Dam to Priest Rapids/Ice Harbor Dams) through July of this year. Be aware, sturgeon fishing is prohibited from Goose Island upstream to Ice Harbor Dam in the Snake River and upstream of the Priest Rapids Hatchery outlet to Priest Rapids Dam in the Columbia River (white sturgeon sanctuaries).
Anderson reminds anglers that most streams have reduced catch and size limits for trout. In addition, there are catch-and-release zones on the Yakima River above Roza Dam, in sections of the Naches River and in Rattlesnake Creek where all trout must be released unharmed. In most large mainstem rivers and streams in the Yakima basin, anglers must use single barbless hooks and no bait.
Lake fishing in Central Washington remains strong, and WDFW is continuing to stock many lakes in the days leading up to the long Fourth of July weekend. Alpine lakes are also an option in the weeks ahead.
“The high country is starting to open up as the snow levels recede,” said Anderson. “There are many excellent opportunities to fish high mountain lakes, most of which are hike- to only.”
Information on high lake stocking in Yakima and Kittitas counties can be obtained from the website link at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/regions/reg3/r3_highlakes.htm . Anglers need to check directly with WDFW’s regional offices for high lake fish stocking information in other areas.
Meanwhile, kokanee are biting at Keechelus and Rimrock lakes. While they generally run small (9-11 inches), Anderson points out that anglers can keep up to 16 of them daily.
Powerline Lake and Marmes Pond were planted with rainbow trout earlier this spring, but Hoffarth said the cooler temperatures this spring should keep the bite going for a couple more weeks. Both of these lakes are walk-in only.
Jumbo triploid trout are being planted at Lost Lake in Kittitas County, as well as in Dog and Leech lakes in Yakima County. These fish are running about 1.5 pounds each. Leech Lake is fly-fishing only. Also in June, 4,500 catchable-size trout and 200 jumbos are being planted in Easton Pond in Kittitas County.
Other recent lake stocking reports can be checked at the WDFW website http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/stocking/weekly/ .
WDFW advises anglers to always check the fishing rules pamphlet for details on a specific river or stream, including what gear is allowed and catch limits. The Fishing in Washington Sportfishing Rules guide is available free at stores that sell fishing licenses. The pamphlet also can be downloaded at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ . That web page also contains a link to emergency rules that have been enacted since the pamphlet was published.