Olympic Peninsula/South Sound:
Fishing: Options abound during the last two weeks of March, starting with a three-day razor clam dig on evening tides March 18-20 at Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park. Closed since December due to elevated toxin levels, Kalaloch has now been cleared for digging by the Washington Department of Health and is the only beach scheduled to open razor clams this month. "We see this dig at Kalaloch this as a chance to make up for lost ground," said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. Low afternoon tides during the three-day dig are as follows: March 18, 4:52 p.m. (+0.1); March 19, 5:35 p.m. (+0.1) and March 20, 6:14 p.m. (+0.3). No digging will be allowed before noon- which leaves plenty of time to go fishing for lingcod. Anglers have reported good catches of lingcod since the fishery opened March 16 in Marine Areas 1-3 (Columbia River to Cape Alava). Creel checks in Westport found that 219 anglers surveyed had brought in 217 legal-sized lings over 24 inches in length. (The daily bag limit is two fish.) They also reported releasing about half that many sub-legals, a sign that tighter controls on fishing seasons over the past three years are paying off, said Greg Bargmann, WDFW marine fish manager. "We should see even better catches in future years as long as everybody throws the little ones back," Bargmann said. Of course, most anglers fishing for lingcod also bring aboard a fair number of rockfish to round out their catch. The daily limit is 10 rockfish; only one canary rockfish and no yelloweye may be retained. Blackmouth fishing has generally been slow in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but anglers are still finding plenty of steelhead on the north coast rivers. For the weekend of March 13, the Sol Duc River gave up 0.69 steelhead per angler, while the catch rate averaged 0.38 fish per angler on the Bogachiel/Quillayute and Calawah combined. Of the 196 anglers checked on the Lower Hoh River, 81 had caught wild steelhead for an average of 0.41 per angler. The Upper Hoh was even better with a 0.63 average catch rate. A majority of the steelhead now being caught on those rivers are wild fish. A statewide moratorium on retention of wild steelhead approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will take effect May 1, rather than April 1 as indicated earlier. Consistent with the commission's plan, the moratorium will require anglers to release any wild (unmarked) steelhead statewide for two full fishing seasons. Finally, clam diggers will be able to take advantage of new harvest opportunities opening up at several popular beaches in Puget Sound beginning April 1. Due in large part to improvements in area clam populations, WDFW recently authorized additional digging at six beaches from Potlatch to Port Townsend. By those actions:
All three clamming beaches near Potlatch in Mason County will open to clam digging April 1 and remain open through June 15. Those beaches include Potlatch State Park, Potlatch East and Potlatch DNR tidelands.
South Indian Island County Park in Jefferson County will open April 1 and remain open through June 30. In addition, the adjacent beach at Port Townsend Ship Canal/Portage Canal, originally scheduled to close for digging April 30, will remain open through May 31. Brown Point (DNR 57-B), previously scheduled to close to clam digging April 15, will remain open through June 30.
WDFW extended the recreational clamming season at Fort Flagler State Park by two weeks, but delayed the opening date from April 1 until April 15 to extend the digging season through "Free Fishing Weekend" on June 12-13. The season at Fort Flagler will run from April 15 through June 15.
Fishing: Spring chinook fishing is improving on the lower Columbia River and most of the catches so far have been by boat anglers, reports Joe Hymer, regional fish biologist. During the second week of March, boat anglers from the I-5 Bridge downstream averaged one chinook per 14.6 rods. Catches and effort should build rapidly, Hymer predicts. On March 13, a total of 700 boats and 650 bank anglers were counted on the lower Columbia from the I-5 Bridge downstream. Anglers can keep an eye on incoming spring chinook numbers by checking Bonneville Dam fish counts on the Internet. As of March 11, only 87spring chinook had been logged at the dam, compared to the recent 10-year average of 700 fish by that date. "The upriver spring chinook are definitely tracking behind what we'd expect to see by this point, but there may be a couple reasons for that," Hymer said noting the Columbia's water temperatures dipped to 35 degrees in January, and just recently reached 44 degrees, and that this year's run is mostly young age-class fish-four year olds that typically arrive later in the season than 5-year-old fish. Working in favor of anglers, the Columbia is running relatively low and clear with visibility of up to seven feet. Some chinook catches have been made on the lower Columbia tributaries, including the Lewis, Kalama and Cowlitz rivers. Several additional areas opened for spring chinook March 16, including Wind River, Drano Lake and the mainstem river from the I-5 Bridge upstream to McNary Dam (except the portion of Bonneville Pool from the Tower Island powerlines to Bonneville Dam, which remains closed). Meanwhile, the number of late-arriving winter steelhead have been increasing on the Cowlitz River, and some good opportunity also exists on the Kalama River. Smelt have made a reappearance in the Cowlitz River, but anglers "have to kind of hunt and peck to find them," Hymer says. "It's best to call ahead for a current smelt report before starting out on any long trips," he added, referring to WDFW's recorded information on the best smelt prospects, which can be reached by dialing (360) 696-6211 and pressing *1010. Sturgeon fishing has been fairly slow although some catches have been made in Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools. Catches should also increase on the lower Columbia as the water warms and the smelt complete their spawning cycle and die. Walleye have provided a bright spot for anglers-fishers in The Dalles Pool averaged 1.5 walleye per rod during the second week of March, while John Day Pool fishers caught one walleye for every three rods. For tips on where and how to catch walleye, check out the Walleyes in Washington page of the department's web site. With warming water temperatures, fishers are also beginning to see some bass in the creel from the pools. And trout fishers should have plenty to look forward to with recent plants of 10,500 half-pound brown trout in Lacamas Lake and another 1,000 in Klineline Pond.
Fishing: March 31 marks the end of rainbow trout fishing at the region's winter-only lakes, and one in particular is still producing nice catches - Fourth of July Lake on the Adams-Lincoln county line continues to yield 13 to 20-inch rainbows. Other trout-stocked lakes that opened March 1 are just getting warmed up (literally and figuratively) and catch rates are rising by the day. Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County is producing limits (two trout daily) of up to 20-inch rainbows. WDFW enforcement officer Lenny Hahn reported anglers also having fairly good success at Amber Lake in Spokane County. "Anglers need to remember that Amber is catch-and-release only right now and has selective gear rules," Hahn said. "Also, unless you're disabled, you can not park down by the Amber boat ramp." The Washington State Parks' Columbia Plateau Trail parking lot is adjacent to the Amber Lake access and has caused some confusion among anglers about what parking permit is required; all anglers need only display WDFW's access decal in their motor vehicle. Tucannon River impoundments in Columbia County -- Beaver, Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring, and Watson lakes - continue to provide nice catches of 8- to 10-inch rainbows and a few 1-1/4-pounders. Hatchery steelhead fishing is heating up on Snake River tributaries like the Tucannon, Touchet and Grand Ronde rivers, all which remain open through April 15.
North Central Washington:
Fishing: WDFW fish biologist Jeff Korth says the Columbia Basin's many March 1-opening waters are "still pumping out rainbow trout." The selective fisheries at Lenice and Nunnally lakes, which have both rainbow and brown trout, and Lake Lenore, which has cutthroat trout, are also doing well, Korth reports. The Seep Lakes Wildlife Area, south of Potholes Reservoir, also has many year-round fisheries that provide some very good early season fishing. Korth encourages anglers to "go exploring, but read the regulations pamphlet because there are some Seep lakes that do not open for business until April 1."
South Central Washington:
Fishing: WDFW fish biologist Jim Cummins says spring weather has fishing really picking up, and the region's hatchery rainbow trout-stocked waters are ready for the many lines being cast. WDFW enforcement officers' recent checks at Myron, FioRito, Mattoon and Wenas lake, and I-82 pond showed lots of effort and fair success. More trout will be stocked in area waters the first week of April. Anglers can pick up a copy of the trout-stocking schedule at the WDFW Southcentral Regional Office in Yakima at 1701 S. 24th Ave., (509) 575-2740 or a summary version on the WDFW website. Cummins reminds anglers that although most of the lakes in the Yakima and Kittitas valleys are open to fishing year-round, there are special regulations on some waters. Check the WDFW Sport Fishing Rules Pamphlet for gear and catch limits. Cummins also noted an "unconfirmed report" that Mud Lake, one of Yakima County's selective gear rules waters, may have experienced a winter fish kill. "Bald eagles were observed eating fish at Mud Lake about the first of March when the lake was still about two-thirds frozen," Cummins said. "The reporting party returned a week later, fished the lake without success, but saw no dead fish. My experience last year was that there was excellent fishing for nice carryover rainbow in March. It remains to be seen if this was a complete kill." WDFW enforcement officers have recently investigated complaints of fishermen using bait on the Yakima River - a reminder that the waterway has a bait prohibition and other special rules. Sturgeon fishing pressure is strong in the Bonneville pool of the Columbia River; officers recently checked 26 anglers with one keeper sturgeon. Hatchery steelhead fishing is picking up on the mid-Columbia River near the Tri-Cities, especially in the Ringold bank fishery, which remains open through April 15.
"This is a reproduction of a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife document and is not the official document or regulations of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The accuracy of the reproduction cannot be guaranteed by WDFW."