What’s Fishin’ In Washington

If it’s almost April, it’s time for a whole host of openers for Washington anglers.

For starters, there’s the April 1 trout opener on numerous Columbia Basin and Okanogan lakes.

Then there’s the April 2-3 statewide youth turkey hunt.

And then the April 7-9 razor clam dig which also brackets the Mariners’ home opener.

It’s followed by the April 9 spring Chinook reopener on the ….

Oh, wait, never mind on that one.

There’s the April 15 start to the general turkey season and some spring bear permit hunts followed the next day by lings out of Neah Bay.

After that there’s another clam dig scheduled April 19-23.

Yep, April’s quite the month for openers for Washington outdoorsmen.

Wait, what’s that? You say I missed one?

Oh, that’s right — only the biggest opener of all, lowland trout!

Here are some great ideas on how to tackle the fishing side, courtesy of WDFW’s Weekender:

NORTH SOUND

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.

As March comes to a close, fishing continues to be slow for most anglers targeting blackmouth, said Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “For the most part it has been a real grind for anglers fishing Puget Sound,” he said. “But there have been a few bright spots. One angler recently caught a 27-pound hatchery chinook in the San Juan Islands and several participants in the recent Anacortes Salmon Derby did pretty good as well.”

A total of 101 fish were weighed during the Anacortes Salmon Derby, which took place March 26-27. Mike Campion of Bellingham took home the $15,000 grand prize with his 18.96-pound fish. Patrick Barton of Bellingham hooked a 18.74-pound salmon that was good enough for second place and $5,000, and Brett Engholm of Bellingham was awarded $2,500 for his third-place fish, which weighed in at 18.44 pounds.

“While anglers definitely have to put in some time on the water, it can be worth it for an opportunity to catch a large blackmouth,” Thiesfeld said.

Anglers fishing marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon. Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 9 is open only through April 15, while Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is already closed to salmon fishing.

Freshwater anglers looking to cast for trout will soon have numerous lakes to choose from. The lowland lakes trout season gets under way April 30, 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.

Anglers should note that the halibut season gets under way in May. The 2011 recreational halibut seasons approved for Washington’s marine areas are:

* Columbia River (Ilwaco): Marine Area 1 will open May 5, three days a week, Thursday through Saturday until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or until July 17. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 5 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or Sept.30, whichever occurs first. The 2011 catch quota is 15,418 pounds.
* South Coast (Westport/Ocean Shores): Marine Area 2 will open on May 1, two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays. During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open Sunday only (May 22). Beginning the following week the fishery will resume the Sunday, Tuesday structure until the quota is reached. The northern nearshore area will be open seven days per week, until the quota is reached. The 2011 catch quota is 43,500 pounds.
* North Coast (La Push/Neah Bay): Marine areas 3 and 4 will open on May 12, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 21. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen the week of June 2. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 16. The 2011 catch quota is 108,792 pounds.
* Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound: Marine areas 6 through 10 (Strait, Port Angeles, Admiralty Inlet and Everett) will be open May 5 through May 29. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 26 through June 18. 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 Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The 2011 combined catch quota for these areas is 58,155 pounds.

All areas that will be open to halibut fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, a possession limit of one fish while on the vessel, and a possession limit of two fish in any form once the angler is on the shore.

Halibut fishing will remain closed in marine areas 11 (Tacoma) and 13 (southern Puget Sound) to protect three species of rockfish listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

April will see the traditional opening of the statewide lowland lakes trout fishing season, the expansion of lingcod fishing on the north coast and two proposed razor-clam digs on ocean beaches.

If marine toxin tests are favorable, WDFW will proceed with a razor-clam dig in early April at Long Beach and Twin Harbors. Tentative opening dates and morning low tides:

* April 7 (Thursday), 9:37 a.m. (0.1 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors
* April 8 (Friday), 10:19 a.m., (0.2 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors
* April 9 (Saturday), 11:07 a.m. (0.4 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors

Later in April, razor clammers could have another opportunity. Tentative opening dates and low tides for that dig are:

* April 19 (Tuesday), 8:07 a.m. (-1.8 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors
* April 20 (Wednesday), 8:54 a.m. (-1.7 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors
* April 21 (Thursday), 9:42 a.m. (-1.4 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks
* April 22 (Friday), 10:33 a.m. (-0.8 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks
* April 23 (Saturday), 11:27 a.m. (-0.2 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks (Digging allowed until 1 p.m.)

No digging will be allowed after noon on any of the razor-clam beaches, except on April 23 when digging is allowed until 1 p.m. on the four beaches. Fishery managers agreed to an extra hour of digging April 23 because low tide won’t occur until 11:27 a.m. that morning, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Harvesters are allowed to take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition. Each harvester’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

Noting that 2010-11 state fishing licenses expire March 31, Ayres reminds diggers age 15 or older that they must purchase a 2011-12 license to participate in the April openings. Various licenses, ranging from a three-day razor-clam license to a multi-species combination license, are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Also on the coast, the lingcod fishery is under way in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 2 (Westport-Ocean Shores) and 3 (LaPush). Beginning April 16, Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) also will open for lingcod. For more information on lingcod fishing regulations, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

Meanwhile, fishing for blackmouth is still an option. Marine Areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait) are open through April 10, although Marine Areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon), 12 (Hood Canal) and 13 (South Puget Sound) will remain open through April 30.

Anglers fishing marine areas 11 and 12 have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook. Those fishing the Strait of Juan de Fuca – marine areas 5 and 6 – and Marine Area 13 have a daily limit of one salmon.

In freshwater, anglers still have an opportunity to hook wild steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula. As in years past, anglers may retain only one wild steelhead per license year on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. Wild steelhead retention continues through April 30 on most of those rivers. The exceptions are the Clearwater, Hoh and Quinault rivers, where wild steelhead retention runs through April 15. Anglers should be aware that portions of the Dickey River closed in mid-March. For more information on steelhead fishing regulations, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

Lake fishing opportunities expand at the end of the month, when the lowland lakes trout season gets under way. Many lakes – stocked with thousands of legal-sized trout – open for fishing April 30. Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on WDFW’s website.

Anglers should note that the halibut season gets under way in May. The 2011 recreational halibut seasons approved for Washington’s marine areas are:

* Columbia River (Ilwaco): Marine Area 1 will open May 5, three days a week, Thursday through Saturday until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or until July 17. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 5 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or Sept.30, whichever occurs first. The 2011 catch quota is 15,418 pounds.
* South Coast (Westport/Ocean Shores): Marine Area 2 will open on May 1, two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays. During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open Sunday only (May 22). Beginning the following week the fishery will resume the Sunday, Tuesday structure until the quota is reached. The northern nearshore area will be open seven days per week, until the quota is reached. The 2011 catch quota is 43,500 pounds.
* North Coast (La Push/Neah Bay): Marine areas 3 and 4 will open on May 12, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 21. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen the week of June 2. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 16. The 2011 catch quota is 108,792 pounds.
* Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound: Marine areas 6 through 10 (Strait, Port Angeles, Admiralty Inlet and Everett) will be open May 5 through May 29. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 26 through June 18. 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 Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The 2011 combined catch quota for these areas is 58,155 pounds.

All areas that will be open to halibut fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, a possession limit of one fish while on the vessel, and a possession limit of two fish in any form once the angler is on the shore.

Halibut fishing will remain closed in marine areas 11 and 13 to protect three species of rockfish listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Marine Area 12 will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.

SOUTHWEST

Anglers have at least through April 4 to catch and keep marked, hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon on the lower Columbia River. Fisheries for shad and hatchery-reared steelhead – which run concurrently with the spring chinook season – are also scheduled to close at the end of the day April 4 on the lower river.

But those fisheries could reopen before an updated run forecast is adopted in late April or early May, said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Our first job is to determine how the catch through April 4 stacks up against the harvest guideline,” LeFleur said. “Right now, we are tracking fairly close to our projections, so any additional fishing time in April will probably be fairly limited.”

As of March 27, anglers had caught and kept 3,331 spring chinook below Bonneville Dam, including 2,650 that count against the harvest guideline of 7,750 upriver fish. Rough conditions – including high, turbid water – hindered fishing in many areas, but catch rates rose quickly during the final week of fishing, as more fish arrived in the lower river.

For that reason, LeFleur estimates that three-quarters of the catch will be taken during the last week of March. “Catch rates have increased during the last week and we could come close to reaching the guideline by April 4,” she said.

But lower-river anglers could get another chance to catch spring chinook in May, once fishery managers update the run forecast. While the preseason forecast projected a return of 198,400 upriver fish, the fishery has been managed with a 30 percent “buffer” to guard against overestimating the run.

“If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look toward providing additional days of fishing on the river later in spring,” LeFleur said.

News of any additional fishing days will be announced on the department’s website, the Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500), the Region 5 hotline (360-696-6211*1010) and through local news media.

The fishing area in the lower river extends from Buoy 10 upriver to Rooster Rock for boat anglers, and to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam for bank anglers. When the fishery is open, anglers can retain one marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon as part of their daily limit.

Above Bonneville Dam, the fishery will remain open to chinook retention through April 24 between the Tower Island powerlines below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam.  Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines located about 6 miles below The Dalles Dam through April 24. Anglers fishing above Bonneville Dam can retain up to two marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon or hatchery steelhead as part of their daily limit.

While salmon and steelhead fishing will be closing in the lower Columbia River, WDFW Fish Biologist Joe Hymer has some other suggestions:

* Fish a tributary: This is the time of year when anglers start picking up increasing number of spring chinook in the Cowlitz, Lewis and Kalama rivers. Winter steelhead are still providing lots of action on the Cowlitz – especially near the trout and salmon hatcheries – and summer steelhead are moving into several other tributaries to the lower Columbia River. Note that the lower East Fork Lewis River and the Lower Washougal River open to steelhead fishing April 16. Check the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet for current rules before you go.

* Head upriver: In April, the daily number of spring chinook passing Bonneville Dam usually jumps from hundreds to thousands of fish, which move into the Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day pools and a number of tributaries in between. Wind River, Klickitat River and Drano Lake are all good bets for spring chinook in April. Walleye fishing is also picking up in The Dalles Pool and the John Day Pool.

* Catch some trout: Hundreds of lowland lakes open for trout fishing April 30 throughout the state, drawing tens of thousands of anglers out for their first cast of the year. While most lakes in southwest Washington are open year-round, “opening day” does mark the start of trout fishing in such perennial favorites as Mineral Lake (Lewis County), Swift Reservoir (Skamania County) and the Rowland Lakes (Klickitat County). Meanwhile, fishing is already good for kokanee running 12-15 inches in Merwin Reservior on the North Fork Lewis River.

* Fish for sturgeon: In the last days of March, catch rates for legal-size sturgeon showed a marked improvement in the lower Columbia River below Bonneville Dam. The Dalles and John Day pools are also producing some legal-size fish. Higher flows over Bonneville (to benefit out-migrating juvenile salmon) should further energize sturgeon, who like the water high and dirty. Note, however, that the Sand Island Slough near Rooster Rock will be closed to fishing at least through April 30..

* Dig some razor clams: WDFW will open two morning razor-clam digs in April if marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat. In addition to a dig tentatively scheduled April 7-9 at Long Beach and Twin Harbors, WDFW also hopes to open those beaches for clam digging April 19-23 and two others – Copalis and Mocrocks April 21-23. Final word on those digs will be announced about a week ahead of time, once the results of the marine toxin tests are available. For more information, see the WDFW razor clam webpage.

Anglers and clam diggers over age 14 are reminded that a 2011-12 license is required to participate in any of the April openings, since 2010-11 licenses expire March 31. Licenses ranging from a three-day razor-clam license to a multi-species combination license are avaiIable online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

FAR EASTSIDE

Some of the region’s best fishing will begin at the end of the month with the lowland lakes season opener on April 30, but there’s plenty of good fishing to be had until then.

“Some waters that open in late-April that are well-stocked, such as Badger, Williams, West Medical, Fishtrap, Fish, and Clear lakes, will likely be excellent again,” said Chris Donley, district fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “But until then, try some March 1-opening waters or year-round fisheries.”

Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County is producing 18- to 22-inch rainbow trout on chironomids and other flies, Donley said. Regulations at Coffeepot Lake include is selective gear rules (no bait, artificial flies and lures only, knotless nets), a minimum size limit of 18 inches and daily catch limit of one trout.

Liberty Lake, in eastern Spokane County, “boomed at ice-out,” with catches of brown trout that ran 16 to 25 inches, Donley said. Liberty still has lots of good fishing for both those trout and, as the water warms, some of the earliest yellow perch and crappie.

Downs Lake in southwest Spokane County just received some hatchery “catchable-size” (9 to 12 inches) rainbow trout, and is fishing well for largemouth bass. Downs also has yellow perch and crappie.

Medical Lake, near the town of the same name in southwest Spokane County, has brown and rainbow trout.

Catch-and-release fishing for both rainbow and cutthroat trout at Amber Lake has been “awesome,” Donley said. Amber is under selective gear rules and shifts to a catch-and-keep season on April 30 when the daily limit will be two trout of at least 14 inches. Rainbows with clipped adipose fins caught at Amber must be released even after April 30.

A year-round fishery, Rock Lake in Whitman County, is consistently a good spot for catches of both brown and rainbow trout.

Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, said that year-round Lake Roosevelt keeps producing big rainbows most days, with kokanee on some days. Baker also notes Deer Lake in southern Stevens County, which opened March 1, is finally warming and likely producing some catches of rainbow and lake trout, with bass, crappie, perch catches not far behind.

“Most fishing lakes in the northeast district won’t open until April 30, and even then, some at higher elevation may still have pretty cold water temperatures, if not some ice or snow.” Baker said. “But the usual good producers will be the ones to plan on fishing late in the month.”

In Stevens County, those include Waitts, Loon, Deep, Cedar, and the Little Pend Oreille chain of lakes, plus Potter’s Pond and a few selective gear fisheries such as Bayley, Rocky and Starvation lakes. In Ferry County, traditional favorites opening in late April include Ellen, Davis, Swan and Trout lakes, plus fly-fishing-only Long Lake. Pend Oreille County waters opening April 30 include Diamond, Frater, Big Meadow, North and South Skookum, Marshall and Sacheen lakes.

In the south end of the region, the Tucannon River impoundments, on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area, have been producing nice rainbow catches since the March 1 opener. Area Manager Kari Dingman said Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring and Watson lakes are all well-stocked with hatchery trout and slowly warming up as spring advances. Beaver Lake has water depth and vegetation growth issues that preclude it from viable fish stocking this year.

April 18 is the deadline to register for the May 7 Kids’ Fishing Event at Clear Lake in Spokane County. For details on the registration form, see the Youth Fishing 2011 Event Calendar on WDFW’s website.

NORTH-CENTRAL

About three dozen lakes throughout the region open to fishing or shift to catch-and-release on April 1.

The bulk of those fisheries are in the Columbia Basin where WDFW District Fish Biologist Chad Jackson predicts a “fair to good” season, depending as always on weather. All but one are within or adjacent to the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge south of Potholes Reservoir, and over half are planted with either spring and/or fall rainbow trout fry.

“Those who traditionally fish the April 1 opener should note that North and South Teal lakes will not be fishable this year because we treated those lakes last fall to remove carp and other spiny rays to restore the trout fishery,” Jackson said.  “We’ll be stocking them with fingerling rainbows later this spring so fishing should be good for next year’s opener.”

There are lots of other fishing spots to try now and the best may be Dry Falls Lake, the only one of the April 1-opening waters not in or near the refuge. It’s located in Sun Lakes State Park, northeast of Park Lake and west of Coulee City in the north end of Grant County.

Jackson says anglers should expect to catch 13- to 14-inch yearling rainbows with carryovers 18 inches or greater on opening day at Dry Falls Lake.  A total of 10,150 rainbow, 756 tiger trout, and 1,026 brown trout fry were stocked there in 2010.

“Just remember that Dry Falls has a selective gear regulation and a one trout daily bag limit,” Jackson said.  As defined in the Sportfishing Rules Pamphlet, selective gear is only unscented artificial flies or lures with one single-point, barbless hook, bait prohibited, and knotless nets.

Other April 1 opening waters in the Columbia Basin include:

* Upper and Lower Hampton lakes, in Grant County north of Othello on the refuge, stocked with 28,507 and 5,047 rainbow trout fry in the spring, respectively; Lower Hampton also received a trout fry plant of 4,500 in the fall. Lower Hampton should produce 12- to 14-inch yearling trout catches, probably an average of about three per angler; Upper Hampton may have larger fish, but the catch rates will probably again be slow.
* Pillar-Widgeon chain of lakes in Grant County on the refuge, stocked with trout fry in the spring 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 lake chain is just southeast of Soda Lake. Try either the entire chain or at least three or four of the lakes to catch some 12- to 13-inch yearlings and carryover trout in the 18-inch or better range.  Shore fishing is available at most, but consider packing in a float tube to increase chances for success. The best tend to be Widgeon, Sago, and Pillar, but all can produce well.
* Hutchinson and Shiner lakes on the refuge in Adams County with excellent largemouth bass and bluegill fishing.  Only non-motorized boats are allowed.
* Coyote, Bobcat, and Hayes creek ponds, located just south of Morgan and Halfmoon lakes, on the refuge in Adams County.  These ponds are relatively small and shallow, warming up quickly for good largemouth bass fishing
* Deadman Lake located just off McManamon Road next to Halfmoon Lake, on the refuge in Adams County, for bass and other warmwater species fishing.

In the north end of the region, in Okanogan County, a few other fisheries open April 1. Bob Jateff, WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist, said Spectacle Lake – nine miles southwest of Tonasket – should be good for rainbow trout in the 10- to 12-inch range. During the month of April, Spectacle will receive up to 800 one- to two-pound triploid rainbows.

Washburn Island Pond, located four miles east of Brewster on the Columbia River, offers largemouth bass and bluegill fishing starting April 1. A Colville tribal license is required if fishing from shore, but not if fishing from a boat. No internal combustion engine boats are allowed, only electric motors.
Jateff notes several Okanogan lakes switch to catch-and-release, selective gear rules, and electric boat motors only on April 1:

* Davis, Cougar, and Campbell lakes, located within the Methow Wildlife Area near Winthrop, with rainbow trout 10 to 12 inches and carryover fish up to 15 inches; small graveled boat launches at all three; could still have some ice during the first part of April.
* Rat Lake, located north of Brewster, with rainbow and brown trout 10 to 12 inches; WDFW access site with concrete boat ramp; should be thawed out by first week in April.
* Big and Little Green lakes, located five miles northwest of Omak, with rainbow trout 10 to 13 inches; WDFW access site on Big Green with concrete boat ramp;  should be thawed out by first week or two in April.

Many more Okanogan County lakes will open April 30 to provide good trout fishing, including:

* Pearrygin Lake, near Winthrop, with rainbows 10 to 12 inches and carryover fish up to 15 inches; up to 500 triploid rainbows (one to two pounds each) will be stocked before the opener; boat launching facilities available at State Park, resort and WDFW access site.
* Conconully Reservoir and Lake, near town of Conconully, with rainbow trout 10 to 12 inches and carryover fish up to 15 inches; boat launching available at State Park and resorts at both lakes.
* Blue Lake, located within the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, with rainbow trout 10 to 16 inches and some brown trout also available; selective gear rules, electric motors only; camping and gravel boat launch sites.
* Big Twin Lake, near Winthrop, with rainbow trout 12 to 16 inches; selective gear rules and electric motors only; resort and WDFW access site with gravel boat launching facilities.
* Chopaka Lake, near Loomis, with rainbow trout 12 to 18 inches; fly fishing only and no boat motors allowed; Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campsites and gravel boat launch.
* Aeneas Lake, near Tonasket, with rainbow trout 12 to 16 inches, brown trout up to 18 inches; fly fishing only and no boat motors allowed; WDFW access site with camping and gravel boat launch.

SOUTH-CENTRAL

This is the time of year that area anglers start thinking seriously about trout, because the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is planting plenty of fish in local waters right now. Thousands of catchable-size trout are scheduled to be planted in Columbia Park Pond, Dalton Lake, Powerline Lake, Quarry Pond, Marmes Lake, and other lakes in April. Many lakes are also being stocked with jumbo trout, weighing over a pound apiece.

“This is a good time to get outdoors and celebrate spring by catching some fish,” said Paul Hoffarth, a fish biologist for the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). ”Thousands of fish around southcentral Washington are just waiting to be caught.”

A complete trout-planting schedule for southcentral lakes and ponds is available on the WDFW website.

Hoffarth reminds anglers over the age of 14 that a 2011-12 fishing license is required to fish for trout and other species after March 31, when 2010-11 licenses expire. Licenses ranging from a three-day razor-clam license to a multi-species combination license are avaiIable online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Most steelhead sport fisheries are now closed in the Columbia and Snake rivers, although a “bank only” fishery adjacent to WDFW’s Ringold Springs Hatchery near the Tri-Cities is open April 1 through April 15. The daily limit is two hatchery steelhead along the Franklin County shoreline from the WDFW marker a quarter-mile downstream from the Ringold irrigation wasteway outlet to the marker a half-mile upstream from Spring Creek.

Meanwhile, spring chinook salmon will be moving into the area in increasing numbers throughout the month of April. On the Columbia River, anglers can keep two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery chinook per day through April 24 from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. The lower Yakima River opens to spring chinook fishing May 1.

“Springers usually start arriving in fishable numbers around the middle of April,” Hoffarth said. “Anglers should keep an eye out for emergency rules that open and close fishing on short notice.” For updates, he recommends checking the department’s website, the Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500) and local news media.

Sturgeon anglers are also advised to stay abreast of new regulations. As of late March, anglers could still catch and keep legal-size sturgeon in Lake Umatilla (John Day Dam to McNary Dam), but that fishery will close as soon as the 500-fish quota for those waters is reached.

Rather catch warm-water fish? Catch rates should continue to improve on area rivers for smallmouth bass, channel catfish and walleye in April right through spring.

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