Hunting & Fishing

Alan Liere, Correspondent

Salmon and steelhead

As winter conditions wax and wane in Eastern Washington, river flows fluctuate and steelhead start moving again. Southeast Washington’s Snake River tributaries can provide excellent fishing on steelhead that have been holed up a couple months. These big fish are moving upstream toward spawning areas.

The Grand Ronde was running mud when I fished near the mouth last week, but Bill Vail at Boggan’s Oasis says it has cleared up nicely, and barring another cloudburst, the fishing should be “wonderful” by this weekend. The Clearwater is fluctuating and might still be high and off-color tomorrow, but the Tucannon, which clears up quickly following a rain, could be good.

In the same area, the Palouse is starting to run mud and will probably stay that way for some time. The Touche, though a little cloudy Thursday, also clears quickly. Fish ladders at Little Goose Dam are open.

Freshwater anglers have additional steelhead-fishing choices now that the Skykomish, Snoqualmie and Wallace rivers, along with Tokul Creek, are once again open to steelhead fishing.

WDFW fisheries biologist Chad Jackson said the best bet for anglers might be the Reiter Ponds portion of the Sky. Fishing there can often be good during high-water events, when steelhead can be found fairly close to the shore.

Steelhead anglers on the lower Quillayute, Sol Duc, Calawah and Hoh rivers, found high-water conditions last week, but fishing on the Quillayute was surprisingly good. Creel checks found 72 anglers with 37 steelhead.

The weather forecast shows dryer conditions during the second week of February, and some rivers are already dropping, said Bill Freymond, WDFW fish biologist.

“The fact that anglers did so well on the Quillayute River during high-flow conditions indicates that the fish are on the move,” Freymond said. “Once the north coast rivers drop into shape, there should be plenty of wild fish around to provide good fishing through the rest of the season.”

Several new fishing opportunities are opening up around Puget Sound, though the best prospects will likely come toward the end of the month.

Starting Feb. 1, blackmouth fishing in Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) opened to favorable reviews after a two-month hiatus.

“I haven’t seen any numbers yet, but I’ve heard of some good catches from Point No Point to Possession Point,” said Chuck Johnson, WDFW blackmouth fishery coordinator. “We have a lot of baitfish in Puget Sound right now, and that should attract and hold blackmouth.”

That also bodes well for several other areas opening for blackmouth on Feb. 14, including marine areas 6 (Port Angeles), 11 (Tacoma) and 12 (Hood Canal).

Following the direction of the Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife commissions, the directors of the states’ fish and wildlife departments announced that sport anglers in the Columbia River spring chinook fishery will be allowed 60 percent of the incidental impacts to upriver fish listed under the Endangered Species Act and commercial fishers will get 40 percent.

The allocation figures will be used to set fishing seasons for what is expected to be the second-largest spring chinook run on record. More than 497,000 wild and hatchery spring chinook are forecast to enter the Columbia River this year.

The Cowlitz River had lots of water and very light angling effort last week with 49 bank anglers keeping one steelhead.

River flows at Mayfield Dam were approximately 13,400 cfs on Feb. 2. Water visibility was less than 2 feet.

Through Jan 24, a total of 1,702 hatchery and 277 wild winter steelhead had returned to the Cowlitz salmon hatchery. This is twice the 887 hatchery and 104 wild fish that had returned through the same time last year.

At the Kalama Falls Hatchery, this year’s run is nearly two- thirds larger than last year, and wild fish returns are nearly the same. At the Merwin Dam trap on the Lewis River, runs are nearly twice that of 2003, and on the Washougal River, a total of 505 winter steelhead had returned to the Skamania Hatchery, 250 percent greater than through the same time last year.

On both the Dalles Pool and the John Day Pool, boat anglers are catching a few steelhead.


There are still reports trickling in of monster Dolly Varden getting hooked along the middle stretch of the Skagit River, particularly from Hamilton upstream to Rockport. Flyfishers and gear- tossers are catching fat Dollies, which must be at least 20 inches in length to retain on the Skagit. The daily limit is two fish.

WDFW Fish Biologist Jeff Korth says this is a good time of year to be fishing Rocky Ford Creek.

“This fly-fishing-only water is home to many rainbow trout in the 2- to 5-pound class, plus some true monsters,” he said. It’s all shoreline fishing, no wading or tubes allowed, and catch-and-release only. Generally, small flies are best.

Korth also notes that ice on the area lakes is all “very iffy after the last big wind, and I do not recommend venturing out on it.”

Rufus Wood is still hot for huge triploids near the net pens, and Roosevelt remains the most consistent trout fishery in Washington.

Bank anglers have experienced unusually consistent fishing at Fort Spokane, Keller, and Jones Bay. Nightcrawlers and marshmallows work about as well as anything, and don’t forget to move if the fish aren’t there. Two hundred yards can make a lot of difference.

WDFW fish biologist Jim Cummins of Yakima reports that no actual creel census data is available now, but fishing is active.

“I can’t say how the catching is going,” Cummins said, “other than one angler who said he and his friend did very well on the lower Naches River. But people are out fishing so there must be some catching.”

Ice along the rivers has more or less melted and rainbow trout fly fishermen are fishing the catch-and-release section of the Yakima River. There are also anglers out after whitefish.

Other species

Moses Lake may have enough open water for boating by this weekend. WDFW staff report anglers catching yellow perch from the Interstate 90 bridge. Potholes Reservoir is ice free except in the dunes, and anglers are taking some really nice walleye. Keep an eye on Potholes this year. The walleye fishing has been phenomenal.

Perch are also coming out of Long Lake and Soda Lake on the Seeps Lakes Wildlife Area below Potholes Reservoir. Fish Lake, near Lake Chelan in Chelan County, is producing perch, along with rainbow and brown trout. With ice clearing out of the Wenatchee River, whitefish angling is picking up. Walleye have been biting well on Roosevelt at Split Rock by SevenBays, and are also showing in good numbers at Rufus Wood in the cove near the launch on the upstream current edge. Jigging is taking the most fish.

There is enough open water on Banks Lake to use a boat, but there have been no reports of fish being taken. The water is about 36 degrees.

In Idaho, the lakes north of Coeur d’ Alene are still OK for ice fishing. Use caution, however, and drill a few test holes as you go.

Boat anglers at Bonneville and The Dalles pools are catching some legal sturgeon, while bank anglers are catching some in the John Day pool.

Sturgeon retention from the Wauna power lines (near Cathlamet) upstream to Bonneville Dam will be allowed only on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays until July 31, 2004. Sturgeon may be caught and released on all other days. Sturgeon retention on the Columbia River and tributaries downstream of the Wauna power lines will remain open seven days per week through April 30. Size restrictions remain at a minimum of 42 inches and a maximum of 60 inches in all waters below Bonneville Dam.

This sidebar appeared with the story:


Tip of the week

Roosevelt rainbow are more sluggish now than they were earlier in the season. When you feel one pecking at your plug or fly, give it some line. The drop often triggers a more aggressive strike.


There is talk of a possible check-in for northern pikeminnow this year at Lower Granite. This would save a lot of driving for a lot of anglers.

Braggin’ rights

Spokane angler Jerry Hawkins caught his first and second Hells Canyon steelhead last weekend while backtrolling with Tim Johnson of Fishhawk Guides. Said Hawkins, “It doesn’t matter if you catch steelhead in the Canyon or not. The boat ride and the scenery are worth the price of admission.”

Copyright 2004 Cowles Publishing Company

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