Washougal River, WA Fishing Report
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Anglers who fish the lower Columbia River are gearing up for hatchery steelhead now that most salmon-fishing opportunities are moving upstream. Steelhead fishing is expected to heat up in the weeks ahead after the summer salmon fishery below Bonneville Dam closes at the end of the day July 1.
Approximately 364,000 upriver steelhead are expected to enter the Columbia this year, along with thousands more bound for lower-river tributaries, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Those fish, bound for the upper Columbia and Snake rivers, tend to run four to eight pounds apiece.
“This year’s return is expected to be about the same as last year’s,” Hymer said. “Steelhead tend to run close to shore, so bank anglers will likely have the advantage in the weeks ahead, especially with the river running high and cold.”
Anglers fishing downriver from Bonneville can take up to two hatchery steelhead per day as part of their six-fish catch limit, which can also include hatchery jack chinook salmon. All wild fish with an intact adipose fin must be released.
Hymer said fishery managers had hoped to extend the salmon fishery beyond July 1, but bumped into two obstacles. On one hand, only about 54,000 summer chinook returned this year, compared to the pre-season projection of 91,200. That reduced the allowable catch, although anglers fishing the lower river are still expected to take home 2,850 adult hatchery summer chinook by the end of the season.
On the other hand, anglers caught 4,000 sockeye this year, shattering last year’s record of 1,300 fish and pushing up against the impact guideline for the lower river. “Those fish were a welcome addition to this year’s fishery,” Hymer said.
Anglers gearing up for hatchery steelhead should consider fishing area tributaries as well as the mainstem Columbia River, he said. As Hymer sees it, the best bet is probably the Cowlitz River, where fish start arriving in larger numbers early in the month.
Other options include the Lewis (North and East forks), Kalama, Washougal, South Fork Toutle, Green, and Elochoman rivers. Anglers should check the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet for regulations specific to those rivers.
Above Bonneville Dam, fishing seasons remain open for adult hatchery chinook and sockeye salmon, as well as hatchery steelhead. For adult fish, the daily limit remains two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each. Anglers should note, however, that sockeye salmon retention in the mainstem Columbia River from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco closes July 9. For more information, check theemergency rule change.
Anglers might also want to try fishing Drano Lake, the lower Wind River or the White Salmon River, where salmon and steelhead have historically dipped in to beat the heat. Just how many enter the White Salmon remains a question, however, since the process of removing Condit Dam filled the mouth of the river with sediment.
“All three of those waters are open for fishing, and we encourage anglers to give them a try,” Hymer said. “We planted the White Salmon with hatchery steelhead, and we’re very interested to see how anglers do in those waters.”
Rather catch a sturgeon? Fishing remains open in The Dalles Pool seven days a week, with a daily limit of one fish measuring 43-54 inches (fork length). From Marker 82 approximately 9 miles below Bonneville Dam down to the Wauna powerlines, anglers can retain sturgeon measuring 38- 54 inches (fork length) Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through July. After a strong finish, the sturgeon fishery in the estuary below Wauna is set to close at the end of the day July 4, four days earlier than previously scheduled. That area will remain open to catch-and-release fishing.
“Catch rates improved significantly in recent weeks, which cut the fishery short by a few days, said Cindy Le Fleur, WDFW’s Columbia River policy manager. “Our goal was to keep the estuary fishery open to anglers through the Fourth of July, and we hit that mark.”
As the snow recedes, trout fishing is gearing up in the region’s many high lakes. Access to these lakes will improve quickly as the weather continues to heat up, said John Weinheimer, another WDFW fish biologist.
Goose Lake, a forest lake in Skamania County, was recently planted with thousands of good-sized brown and cutthroat trout, Weinheimer said. Meanwhile, kokanee fishing is still going strong at Merwin Reservoir and fishing for rainbows has been good at Swift Reservoir. Riffe Reservoir on the Cowlitz River has also been good for landlocked coho.
Bass, walleye, and tiger musky fishing are in full swing, too, Weinheimer said. For bass and walleye, head to the Columbia River. Tiger musky are biting in the Merwin and Mayfield reservoirs.
Wildlife viewing: July is a great time to watch the parade of salmonids – summer chinook, sockeye salmon and steelhead – past the fish-viewing windows at the Bonneville Dam Visitor Center. Thousands of fish are now on display every day as they move up the fish ladders to continue their journey upriver.
To get there, take Washington State Highway 14 east to Milepost 40 (about 5 miles from Stevenson) and park in front of the glass building at the end of the powerhouse. To check on the number of fish passing the dam each day, go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.
Meanwhile, state land managers are urging Washingtonians to avoid doing anything that might spark a wildfire. Unattended campfires, fireworks, faulty vehicle or motorcycle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes, and outdoor burning are among the common sources of wildfire starts in the state.
General rules for lands owned or managed by WDFW are described in the department’s public conduct rules. Fireworks are prohibited and campfires are limited to three feet in diameter and three feet high under those rules.
Fireworks are also prohibited on forestlands owned by the Washington Department of Natural Resource (DNR), which has imposed a burn ban from July 1 through Sept. 30. Despite rain and cool weather, DNR has already suppressed approximately 143 fires that have burned nearly 872 acres on state lands.
“The major wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico remind us how destructive they can be to our homes and lives,” said Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands. “We urge everyone to exercise caution with any fire-related activities this holiday weekend.”
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