What’s Fishin’ In Washington

I heard a bit of snickering about a certain coverline on one of our spring issues — Lingzillas? In Washington? Come on.

But over Memorial Day Weekend, Bryce Molenkamp did exactly what he wrote about in his April kayak kolumn: caught a lo-o-o-o-ong member of the species Ophiodon elongatus.

“I did it, brother!” he emailed me yesterday. “I got a 41-inch, 30-pound pound ling in local waters. It was a beast of a fight. I’m super stoked! Last year when I got the lower 48 kayak fishing record I thought it would be a long time until I saw another. Oh man was it fun!!”

He sent four images of the fish, which, because of its catch location (Anacortes) he had to let go because of last year’s new 26-to-36-inch slot limit.

BRYCE MOLENKAMP SHOWS OFF HIS MOMMAZILLA, A QUEEN-SIZED LINGCOD CAUGHT OUT OF HIS KAYAK OFF ANACORTES RECENTLY. (BRYCE MOLENKAMP)

“We got a little over 20 lings between the two of us that day,” reported Molenkamp who, at 6-7, may also be the world’s tallest kayak angler (if not columnist). “Caught on, what else, live bait. Greenling are what’s for dinner.”

You have through June 15 to pick up keeper-sized lings in most of the Straits and all of Puget Sound.

And then what might you find Molenkamp and the rest of Washington’s fishermen chasing?

Here are some ideas ripped straight out of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s monthly Weekender report:

NORTH SOUND

Anglers have their pick of several fishing opportunities in June. On Puget Sound, the Tulalip Bay bubble fishery gets under way June 3, while the lingcod fishery remains open through mid-month. In freshwater, numerous rivers open for trout June 4 and – in a few waters – salmon fishing opens at the beginning of the month.

Portions of the Skagit and Cascade rivers opened for hatchery chinook salmon fishing June 1. The Skagit is open to hatchery chinook retention from the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to the Cascade River Road. 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).

Fishing for salmon, as well as trout and other gamefish, also opened June 1 on portions of the Skykomish River.

Elsewhere, trout fishing will open at several of the region’s other rivers and streams beginning June 4. Under the statewide rule for trout, there is a two-fish daily limit and a minimum size of eight inches in rivers and streams. However, some of the region’s rivers and streams have a rule requiring trout to be at least 14 inches in length to keep. For details on river fishing opportunities, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

Meanwhile, lake fishing for bass, bluegill, perch and crappie is steadily improving as water temperatures increase and fish become more active, said Danny Garrett, fisheries biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). When fishing for these species, focus on areas where there are bridge pilings, boat docks, rock, submerged trees and bushes, grass beds, lily pads, and flooded vegetation along the shoreline, he said.

“Smallmouth bass use many of the same habitats as largemouth bass, but smallmouth are often more abundant around rocky points, riprap, and offshore rock piles,” Garrett said.  “Both species are highly adaptive to specific lake conditions, and habitat use will vary from lake to lake.” For smallmouth and largemouth bass, Garrett recommends using spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, crankbaits, jigs, and plastic baits that include worms, tubes, and creature baits.

Perch and bluegill can also be caught with an assortment of artificial jigs, spinners, and flies, although many people prefer to use live worms under a bobber, he said. Anglers fishing for perch and bluegill should try fishing around several different pieces of cover in the lake until a group of fish is found.  “Generally, a single, small area will produce many individuals, since both species tend to congregate in large groups,” he said.

Lakes where anglers can find quality bass and panfish fishing include Lakes Whatcom and Terrell in Whatcom County; Lake Goodwin in Snohomish County; Big Lake in Skagit County; Lakes Washington, Union and Sammamish in King County.

On Puget Sound, the northern portion of Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) opened June 1 to catch-and-release fishing for salmon. Fishing is allowed north of a line from Point Monroe to Meadow Point.

Farther north, the Tulalip Bay “bubble” fishery begins June 3. The fishery is open each week from Friday through noon Monday through Sept. 5. The exception is June 12, when the bubble is closed for the Tulalip Tribes salmon ceremony, said Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for WDFW. “They recently rescheduled their salmon ceremony, so the one-day closure was moved to June 12,” Thiesfeld said. “That means the bubble will be open June 19 this year.” For details, check the emergency fishing rule change. Anglers fishing the bubble will have a two-salmon daily limit, plus two additional pink salmon.

The halibut fishery in the region is closed, but fishing for lingcod is still an option. The lingcod fishery runs through June 15 in the region. 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.

Before heading out, anglers should check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet for all regulations.

Washingtonians who are interested in fishing but haven’t actually given it a try have a perfect chance to do so during Free Fishing Weekend, scheduled June 11-12. During those two days, no license will be required to fish or gather shellfish in any waters open to fishing in Washington state. Also, no vehicle use permit will be required during Free Fishing Weekend to park at any of the water-access sites maintained by WDFW.

While no licenses are required on Free Fishing Weekend, other rules such as size limits, bag limits and season closures will still be in effect. Anglers will also be required to complete a catch record card for any salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or halibut they catch. Catch record cards and WDFW’s Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet are available free at hundreds of sporting goods stores and other license dealers throughout the state.

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

Some fisheries are winding down in the region, but anglers have other options as numerous rivers and streams open for trout June 4 and salmon fishing gets under way mid-month off the coast.

The popular ocean salmon season opens June 18 with a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in all ocean areas. The selective fishery will run seven days a week, with a daily limit of two salmon, through June 25 or until 4,800 hatchery chinook are retained. Anglers will be required to release wild chinook and all coho during the selective fishery, said Doug Milward, ocean salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“It looks like there are a lot of chinook out there,” said Milward. “And from what we are seeing in the troll fishery, I expect fishing to be much like last year, which was pretty darn good.”

Ocean salmon fisheries for chinook and hatchery coho will open June 26 in marine areas 1, 2, 3 and 4, where anglers will be allowed to retain one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. Anglers also are allowed one additional pink salmon each day in marine areas 3 and 4. Salmon fishing will be open seven days a week, except in Marine Area 2 where anglers can only fish for salmon Sundays through Thursdays. Before heading out, anglers should check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet for all regulations.

In Puget Sound, marine areas 11 and 13 are open for salmon. Anglers fishing those areas have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Halibut fishing is closed in most of Puget Sound. The exception is Marine Area 5 (Sekiu), where anglers can fish for halibut three days a week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday through June 18. On the coast, Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) will close to halibut fishing June 5, and then re-open Aug. 5 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday). Marine Area 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) is already closed except in the northern nearshore area.

Farther north, La Push and Neah Bay (marine areas 3 and 4) will open for two more days of fishing June 2 and 4. “We will evaluate the quota after these dates to determine if there’s enough quota for additional openings in those two areas,” Reed said.

All areas 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. For more information on the halibut fishery, check WDFW’s website.

Anglers have through mid-month to fish for lingcod in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where the fishery closes June 15 in both areas. However, the lingcod season on the coast remains open through mid-October.

Anglers are reminded that work will limit parking facilities for boaters through June at Twanoh State Park, a popular access site on Hood Canal. The State Parks and Recreation Commission encourages fishers to use an alternate launch site.

Meanwhile, a couple of rivers are open for salmon fishing, including the Hoh, Quillayute and a portion of the Sol Duc. For details on those and other fishing opportunities, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

Elsewhere, trout fishing will open at several rivers and streams beginning June 4. Under the statewide rule for trout, there is a two-fish daily limit and a minimum size of eight inches in rivers and streams. However, some rivers and streams have a rule requiring trout to be at least 14 inches in length to keep.

SOUTHWEST  

The spring chinook fishery runs through June 15, followed the next day by a promising six-week summer chinook season. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of sockeye salmon and hatchery summer steelhead are moving into the lower Columbia River Basin, where anglers can also catch and keep white sturgeon in most areas.

But high water will present an ongoing challenge for anglers engaged in all of these fisheries, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“The river has been up in the trees for several days, and the snow pack hasn’t even started to melt,” said Hymer during the last week of May. “These high-water conditions could be with us for a while.”

Anglers can check area river conditions on websites maintained by the Fish Passage Center and the Northwest River Forecast Center.

Apart from their effect on fishing conditions, high flows and floating debris present a safety risk to anglers – particularly boat anglers – fishing the mainstem Columbia River. So long as the river is high, Hymer suggests that anglers leave their boats at home and take up a position on the bank.

“Success rates for bank anglers were higher than those for boat anglers fishing for spring chinook during the last week of May,” he said. “There’s a lesson in that.”

Through June 15, fishing is open to both boat and bank anglers from Rocky Point/Tongue Point upriver to Bonneville Dam. Fishery managers opened the four-mile area from Beacon Rock to the dam to boat angling in late May to give anglers more access to upriver spring chinook still available for harvest.

The fishery above Bonneville Dam has also been extended through June 15 for boat and bank anglers from the Tower Island power lines upriver to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank fishing was also reopened through June 15 from Bonneville Dam upriver to the power lines, located six miles below The Dalles Dam.

During the spring chinook season, anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam may retain one adult spring chinook salmon marked with a clipped adipose fin as part of their daily catch limit. Above Bonneville, the daily limit can include two marked hatchery adult chinook salmon. Sockeye salmon and hatchery-reared steelhead also count toward anglers’ adult daily limit.

In both areas, all unmarked chinook and steelhead must be released unharmed.

That is also the case in the summer chinook salmon fishery, which gets under way June 16 from the Megler Astoria Bridge up to Priest Rapids Dam. One difference is anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam can retain two adult hatchery-reared chinook after June 16, rather than one.

Like last year, the six-week mark selective summer chinook season is made possible by the additional revenue produced by the new Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement fee. “In the past, the cost of adequately monitoring and sampling a six-week fishery was prohibitive,” Hymer said. “The extended summer chinook fishery was one of the first uses the department made of those revenues.”

Based on the pre-season forecast, this year’s summer chinook season looks promising, Hymer said. Approximately 92,000 upriver fish – the highest number since 1980 – are expected to return, including a high percentage of five-year-olds running 20-40 pounds. Anglers can also top off their daily limits with sockeye salmon and summer-run hatchery steelhead, which are also expected to return in high numbers this year.

Many of the early returning steelhead are headed for the Elochoman, Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, Toutle, Washougal, and Klickitat rivers, where they should provide good fishing through the summer. Fishing for hatchery spring chinook is also open on a number of area tributaries, including Drano Lake and the Wind River, where anglers can now retain four adult hatchery spring chinook as part of their six-fish daily limit.

Those fishing Drano Lake should be aware that Wednesday closures have been extended through June.  In addition, the Kalama and Lewis rivers were recently closed to fishing for spring chinook due to low returns.

On the Klickitat River, salmon fishing is now open seven days a week downstream from the Fisher Hill Bridge, where anglers may retain two adult hatchery spring chinook plus two hatchery steelhead. Anglers fishing 400 feet upstream from the #5 fishway to the boundary markers below the Klickitat Salmon Hatchery may retain hatchery chinook jacks and hatchery steelhead.

New rules will also take effect June 4 on the following rivers:

Elochoman River:  Opens for retention of hatchery chinook and hatchery steelhead from the mouth to the West Fork.

Grays River:  Opens for retention of hatchery chinook and hatchery steelhead

on the mainstem from the mouth to the South Fork, and the West Fork from the mouth to the hatchery intake/footbridge.

South Fork Toutle River and the Green River: Opens for hatchery steelhead on the entire South Fork Toutle, plus the Green River from the mouth to the 2800 Road Bridge. Bait may be used.  All tributaries to the South Fork Toutle and Green rivers will remain closed to all fishing.

East Fork Lewis River: Opens for hatchery steelhead from the mouth to 400 feet below Horseshoe Falls (except closures around various falls).  Bait may be used.

Washougal River: Opens for hatchery steelhead from the mouth to Salmon Falls Bridge. Bait may be used.

For more information about these and other fishing rule updates, check for Emergency Rule Changes on WDFW’s website.

Rather catch a sturgeon? Boat anglers have been catching some legal-size fish around Camas, Longview and Cathlamet on the Columbia River. The retention fishery below the Wauna powerlines runs seven days a week through June 26, then resumes July 1-4. The daily limit is one white sturgeon with a fork-length requirement of 41 to 54 inches. Above the powerlines, sturgeon may be retained Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through July 31 up to Navigation Marker 82, nine miles below Bonneville Dam. The daily limit is one fish with a fork-length requirement of 38 to 54 inches.

And don’t forget shad. While not as highly prized as sturgeon or salmon, they can put up a good fight and make for good eating, said WDFW biologist Joe Hymer. Even though their numbers may be down this year, more than a million of them will likely mount a charge up the Columbia this month. There are no daily limits or size limits for shad, the largest member of the herring family.

Fishing for walleye and bass should also pick up this month as water temperatures rise. During the last week of May, boat anglers averaged eight bass and eight walleye per rod fishing in The Dalles Pool. More than a dozen lakes, rivers and reservoirs – from Mayfield Reservoir in Lewis County to the Little White Salmon River in Skamania County – will be stocked with trout this month. See the WDFW website for a complete listing.

EASTERN

June is usually one of the best months of the year for a variety of fishing opportunities throughout the region, with river and stream seasons opening and warmwater fish species beginning to bite.

But this year, with extended cooler temperatures and greater than usual spring rain and runoff flooding some areas and putting many waterways out of shape, anglers are advised to use caution and plan ahead by checking access conditions with local sources.

Many northeast district rivers, including the Colville, Kettle, Little Pend Oreille, and Lake Roosevelt tributaries, opened to fishing May 28. Most other rivers and streams in the region will open June 4, the first Saturday of June. However, portions of the Spokane River open June 1, and some waterways are open year-round. Anglers should check the fishing rules pamphlet for details.

Two areas of the Snake River – near Little Goose Dam and Clarkston – are open to spring chinook salmon fishing through June 2. For details see the emergency rule change.

Lakes that have been open since late April continue to produce good catches of rainbow, cutthroat and other trout. In the central district, good bets are Fishtrap Lake in Lincoln County; and Amber, Badger, Chapman, Clear, Fish, West Medical and Williams lakes in southwest Spokane County. Many mixed-species waters that are open year-round or opened earlier this spring are starting to produce catches of bass, bluegill, crappie, perch or catfish, along with trout. These include Spokane County’s Eloika, Liberty, Long, Newman, and Silver lakes.

In the northeast district, many trout fishing lakes are on U.S. Forest Service or other public lands with campgrounds – perfect for family weekend outings. In Ferry County, that includes Davis, Ellen, Ferry and Swan lakes; in Stevens County, Gillette, Pierre, and Thomas lakes; in Pend Oreille County, Bead, Cook’s, Mystic, No-Name, Skookum, Sullivan and Yocum lakes. Anglers need to keep in mind that seven lakes where loons breed and nest in the northeast district have new rules prohibiting the use of lead weights and jigs that measure 1 ½ inches or less along the longest axis – these are Ferry, Long and Swan in Ferry County; Pierre in Stevens County; and Meadow, South Skookum and Yocum in Pend Oreille County.

Stevens County’s Cedar, Rocky and Starvation lakes continue to be among the best trout producers in the region, but anglers need to keep in mind that Rocky and Starvation shift to catch-and-release only on June 1.

WDFW is piloting a free adult fishing class on June 11 with help from Inland Northwest Wildlife Council volunteer instructors and Bunkers Resort on Williams Lake in southwest Spokane County. The class will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., mostly with time on the water to learn how to catch fish, but also with instruction on cleaning and cooking fish.  Limited class space is filling fast with a registration deadline of June 6; call WDFW Eastern Region office at 509-892-1001 or e-mail teamspokane@dfw.wa.gov.

NORTH-CENTRAL

River and stream trout fishing is scheduled to start the first Saturday in June, but WDFW Okanogan District Fish Biologist Bob Jateff says higher than normal flows will make fishing difficult at best – at least for the first few weeks of the month. “Anglers should focus on some of the smaller tributaries which have a tendency to clear up much quicker than larger rivers,” Jateff said.

Spring chinook salmon fishing on the Icicle River in Chelan County should improve considerably in June as more fish move up into the river. “There should be a number of fish available as the pre-season forecast for the Icicle calls for a run of approximately 9,000 fish,” Jateff said.  Daily limit is three salmon, minimum size 12 inches.  Standard gear rules are in effect and there is a night closure.  Anglers must release all fish with one of more round holes punched in the tail (caudal) fin.

“Lake fishing should improve during the month as a later than normal spring has kept lake waters cooler than normal,” Jateff said.  Rainbow trout waters to check out are Pearrygin near Winthrop, Alta near Pateros, Conconully Reservoir and Lake near Conconully, Spectacle near Loomis, and Wannacut near Oroville. Anglers can expect to catch rainbows in the 10-13 inch range with larger carryover fish in the 15-16 inch range in all of these lakes, Jateff said.

Fly-fishing only waters in Okanogan County worth visiting in June are Aeneas Lake near Tonasket and Chopaka Lake near Loomis.  Jateff reports Aeneas Lake has rainbow and brown trout 12-18 inches, and Chopaka has rainbows in the 12-17 inch range.  Electric motors are not allowed on fly-fishing only waters, unless a special use permit has been issued.  Selective gear waters to try would be Big Twin Lake near Winthrop, Blue Lake on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, Buzzard Lake near Okanogan, and Rat Lake near Brewster.  All of these lakes are planted with rainbow trout fingerlings and/or catchables and should provide good fishing for 12-16 inch fish.  Both Rat and Blue also have brown trout available.

For spiny ray anglers, Patterson Lake near Winthrop has yellow perch as well as smallmouth and largemouth bass.  Expect perch in the 6-9 inch range in Patterson with an occasional fish up to 11 inches.  Leader Lake, near Okanogan, has a mix of black crappie and bluegill, as well as largemouth bass.  You can expect bluegill in the 6-7 inch range and crappie in the 6-9 inch range.  Both Patterson and Leader Lakes are also planted with rainbow trout catchables up to 13 inches.

Wapato Lake in Chelan County continues to provide good fishing for rainbows in the 12-13 inch range, with a few larger fish up to 17 inches.  Jameson Lake in Douglas County has been fishing well for rainbows in the 10-11 inch range along with a number of spring planted triploid rainbows in the 16-17 inch range.

On June 1, Grimes Lake near Mansfield will open for trout fishing under selective gear rules and a one fish daily limit.  Anglers can expect good fishing for Lahontan cutthroat in the 12-18 inch range, with some fish in the 20-inch category.  Float tubes, pontoon boats, and small row boats can be launched at the south end of the lake under an access agreement with the local land owner.  The fishing season at Grimes Lake continues through Aug. 31.

In the Columbia Basin district of the region, fish biologist Chad Jackson said trout fishing has been very good during this cool, wet spring and warmwater fish species should begin biting more later this month. “Pretty much all of the catch-and-release or fly-fishing or selective gear waters in the basin are fishing quite well with these conditions,” Jackson said.  “Lenice and Dry Falls lakes are the most popular and some anglers are catching and releasing 12 to 20 or more trout per day, and the fish are running up to 20 inches.”

Jackson reported that Quail, Dusty, Lenore, and Nunnally lakes are also fishing well.
So are the “production waters,” like Warden, Blue, and Park lakes in Grant County.  “These fisheries appear to be holding up well since the late April opener, but that’s based on just a few reports,” he said. “The weather, especially wind, plays a big factor in successful fishing at those lakes.”

Jackson also noted that bass and walleye fishing should be heating up this month in the usual big three waters in the basin – Banks Lake, Potholes Reservoir and Moses Lake.  “I’m already hearing some good reports, especially for smallmouth and largemouth bass,” he said.

SOUTH-CENTRAL

Area anglers have been reeling in channel catfish from the lower reaches of the Yakima and Walla Walla rivers, while fishing in the Columbia and Snake rivers has been choked by high water. Fishing has been good for “channel cats,” which typically run 8-10 pounds but can easily weigh twice that amount, said Paul Hoffarth, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Put some cut bait on your hook and leave it on the bottom,” Hoffarth advises. “That’s about all there is to it.”

Trout fishing in area lakes is another alternative for anglers waiting for heavy flows to subside in the Columbia River. Powerline Lake and Marmes Pond, two walk-in lakes in Franklin County, were planted with trout in early spring and cooler temperatures should “keep the bite going” for several weeks, Hoffarth said.

In addition, more than a dozen waters – ranging from Bear Lake in Yakima County to Easton Ponds in Kittitas County – are scheduled to receive fresh plants in June. Many of those waters will receive an assortment of catchable and jumbo-size fish, the latter weighing up to 1½ pounds apiece. See the WDFW website for the full lake-stocking schedule in June.

Out on the Columbia River, fishing prospects look good for salmon, sturgeon and shad – after the river drops to fishable levels. Meanwhile, anglers should exercise caution in venturing out into the big river.

“Flows on the mainstem Columbia have been nearly twice the seasonal average, and there’s a lot of debris in the water,” he said. “It’s not just a matter of fishing conditions, it’s a safety issue.”

Anglers can keep tabs on water conditions on the Fish Passage Center’s website. Once they flows subside, they’ll have several good options for catching fish:

Chinook salmon: June 16 marks the start of the fishery for hatchery-reared summer chinook salmon upriver to Priest Rapids Dam. The daily limit is six hatchery fish, up to two may be adult hatchery chinook. Anglers must stop fishing when their adult portion of the daily limit is retained. Anglers fishing the Columbia River downstream from the Highway 395 bridge at Pasco/Kennewick can retain sockeye salmon or hatchery steelhead as part of their daily bag limit.

White sturgeon:  Fishing remains open in Lake Wallula (McNary Dam to Priest Rapids/Ice Harbor Dams) through July of this year. Fish must measure 43 inches to 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Anglers should be aware that sturgeon fishing is prohibited in sturgeon sanctuaries in the Snake River from Goose Island upstream to Ice Harbor Dam and in the Columbia River upstream of the Priest Rapids Hatchery outlet to Priest Rapids Dam.

Shad:  By mid-June, shad should reach McNary and Ice Harbor dams in numbers that make for great fishing. While not as prized as salmon or sturgeon, they can put up a good fight and make for good eating, Hoffarth said.

Smallmouth bass and walleye:  Fishing for both species should improve in the Columbia and Snake rivers as those waters warm. One veteran angler from Richland recently pulled a 18 pound, 4 ounce walleye out of the McNary Pool.

Steelhead fishing will remain closed until fall in the Columbia River upstream of the Highway 395 Bridge, and in the Snake River.

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