Northern Puget Sound
Fishing: The steelhead action has been slow on most river systems, mostly due to cold, low water conditions. The lull in the action shouldn’t discourage anglers, notes Curt Kraemer, WDFW regional fish program manager. “You can still catch steelhead during these kinds of conditions, but you have to be very precise in where you fish,” he said. “Steelhead won’t move around much when the rivers are low, clear and cold, so focus on holding water, rather than the water that fish use to move upstream.” What’s “holding water?” It’s a stretch of stream that combines several important features that attract fish, including a mild current; a non-sandy bottom, as swirling sand can aggravate the gills; and enough depth to provide fish the cover they need to feel safe. Be sure to work holding areas thoroughly before moving on to the next likely stretch of water. “There should still be some hatchery fish around in those areas, and more wild steelhead are showing up all the time,” Kraemer said. Patient anglers have been hooking a few hatchery fish in the Snohomish River system, most notably the Skykomish in the Reiter Ponds area, and the in the Snoqualmie near the mouth of Tokul Creek. For anglers who are looking for a better bet than finding a steelhead that will bite in low, gin-clear water, grab the ultralight gear and head out for a few whitefish. After feeding on stray eggs behind spawning salmon, whitefish are now likely on the move to waters where they’ll be doing some spawning of their own. “Large, deep pools will sometimes be filled with whitefish right now,” Kraemer said. “It’s not unusual to find schools of 1,000 or more in a single hole.” There is a 15-fish daily limit for whitefish and no minimum size. While action has slowed somewhat, Skagit River flyfishers have hooked a few Dolly Varden using egg patterns and naturally colored flies with colorful names, such as the egg-sucking leech, woolly bugger and the ever-popular conehead kiwi muddler. Dollies 20 inches in length or longer can be retained as part of the two-trout daily limit on the Baker, Cascade, Skagit, Sauk, Snohomish, Suiattle, Sultan, Wallace, Whitechuck and Skykomish rivers. Trout anglers who can’t wait for another three-plus months before wetting a line in their favorite lowland lake can always try one of the lakes that are open year-round, including Pass Lake at Deception Pass in Skagit County. This small lake can be a great place for catch-and-release flyfishing, particularly a little later in the winter on a calm, sunny day. For bigger water, head to Lake Washington, which is open to fishing for trout and other game fish year-round. Big perch and even bigger cutthroat trout can be caught in Lake Washington. All steelhead and rainbow trout over 20 inches in length must be released Dec. 1 to June 30. Nearby Lake Sammamish is also open to fishing year-round under the same rules that govern Lake Washington fisheries, except kokanee trout must be released. The blackmouth bite has been light in Marine Area 10, including Elliott Bay, the only stretch of marine water in the region still open to salmon fishing. The opportunities to fish for blackmouth expand dramatically on Feb. 1 when marine areas 7 (the San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass south to Saratoga Passage) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet to the Apple Cove Point – Edwards Point line) all open with a one-fish daily limit. Blackmouth must be 22 inches to retain. Squid jigging has been slow off Elliott Bay piers.
Olympic Peninsula/South Sound
Fishing: Cold weather has chilled fishing in many area rivers, but that doesn’t mean anglers are coming up empty-handed. Creel checks conducted the first week of January found 91 anglers with 82 steelhead (13 wild) on the Bogachiel/Quillayute river system. On the Hoh River, 61 anglers fishing below Highway 101 had caught 49 steelhead (16 wild), although none of the seven anglers fishing above the highway had fish. Four anglers checked on the Calawah River had five hatchery steelhead among them, while nine anglers fishing the Sol Duc River had four steelhead (three wild). “Fishing has cooled off along with the weather, but anglers are still averaging better than half a fish per rod,” said Mike Gross, WDFW fish biologist. “The rivers are cold and clear, but that will change as soon as the weather warms and the snow melts.” With more wild fish beginning to show up in the catch, Gross reminds anglers that they can retain one wild steelhead per year from one of 11 rivers on the Olympic Peninsula. Those rivers are the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Goodman, Hoh, Hoko, Pysht, Quillayute, Quinault and the Sol Duc. (The new limit of one wild steelhead per year also applies to the Green River in King County, but only to the summer season, which is now closed.) This opportunity is not reflected in the 2004-05 Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet, which was printed before the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission rescinded the statewide moratorium on wild-steelhead retention passed earlier last year. The cold snap has also slowed fishing elsewhere in the region, where anglers must still release any wild steelhead they catch. But even in their chilly torpor, some bright steelies are stirring themselves to take after eggs and corkies on the Humptulips, Satsop, Wynoochie and Puyallup rivers. One note of caution: A tree across the Satsop River between Schafer Park and the west fork can make for some tricky boating. To cold to clam? Not for the hardy souls who dug an estimated 225,000 razor clams in 35-degree weather during New Year’s weekend. WDFW has tentatively scheduled the next two digs on evening tides Feb. 5-7 and March 6-8. As usual, final approval of those digs will be announced several days ahead of time, provided that marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat. WDFW may announce additional openings on morning tides in spring if enough clams remain to be harvested. But for the next two openings, make sure to take a lantern – and a warm jacket.
Fishing: The winter steelhead are back, in numbers about double those of last year’s returns at some Cowlitz River hatcheries, reports Pat Frazier, regional deputy fisheries manager. Through the first week of January, some 2,000 hatchery winter steelhead had returned to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery, and 700 had shown up at the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery, Frazier said. Boat anglers near the Blue Creek launch on the Cowlitz River were finding hatchery steelhead at a rate of one fish for every three rods in the first week of January, Frazier adds. Fish Biologist Chris Wageman reports lots of steelhead showing on the Kalama River, with returns about three times the average there. Some 250 hatchery winter steelhead were recycled back downstream from the Kalama Hatchery in the late December and early January, and 40 more fish were recently planted in Kress Lake. On the Lewis River, over 1,000 hatchery winter steelhead have returned to the Merwin Dam fish trap—a return about a third higher than last year. On the Washougal River, about 600 hatchery winter steelhead had returned to Skamania Hatchery by the end of the first week of January; about twice last year’s tally by this date. Returns were a bit slower on the Elochoman River, where the 251 fish trapped by Dec. 28 were just half the number at the same time last year. Columbia River sturgeon anglers can keep their catch now—provided the fish are at least 42 inches long—with rules varying above and below the Wauna power lines near Cathlamet. From the Wauna power lines upstream to Bonneville Dam, sturgeon retention is allowed only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Catch-and-release sturgeon fishing is allowed there on other days. From the Wauna power lines downstream to the Columbia River mouth sturgeon retention is allowed seven days per week. So far, sturgeon fishing has been on the slow side, said Frazier, adding that recent cold weather may have been slowing the bite. The best sturgeon spots to try are from Longview to Portland and from Washougal to Bonneville. Low temperatures may also have played a role in slowing smelt returns, Frazier said. The dipping season, which opened Jan.1, is under way seven days a week on the mainstem Columbia River, with a daily limit of 25 pound per person. In the Grays, Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis rivers, smelt fishing is allowed only on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Dipping hours there are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the daily limit is 10 pounds per person. Hatchery spring chinook fishing opened Jan. 1 on the lower Columbia River, although there aren’t many springers in the water yet, Frazier said. The season probably won’t start in earnest until late February, he added. Recent trout stocking has added 2,500 catchable-size rainbows, 75 broodstock fish and 75 steelhead averaging 10.5 pounds apiece to Klineline Pond; 3,250 catchable-size fish in Battleground Lake; 500 catchable-size trout in Maryhill Pond; 1,150 catchable-size rainbows in Spearfish Lake and 75 rainbow trout averaging 10.5 pounds apiece, along with 13 broodstock fish, in Rowland Lake. Tacoma Power also added fish to the Cowlitz River recently. From Dec. 28 to Jan. 3, some 244 steelhead were recycled downstream to Massey Bar and 22 steelhead were taken upstream to Gust Backstrom Park on the Tilton River.
Fishing: The Snake River system is currently low, clear, and cold and steelhead fishing action is excellent in some places. The latest creel survey showed an average of just over three hours of fishing effort per steelhead caught by boat fishers on the middle portion of the Snake above the interstate bridge. Walla Walla River steelheaders averaged 3.6 hours per fish caught. Those on the Grand Ronde River from Bogan’s Oasis to the state line averaged 4.7 hours per fish caught. Tucannon River steelheaders averaged 5.3 hours; Touchet River anglers averaged 6.9 hours, and those on the mainstem Snake between Lower Monumental and Little Goose dams averaged just over 16 hours per fish caught. Other steelheading measured showed almost 34 hours per fish caught on the Snake between Little Goose and Lower Granite dams, and almost 38 hours per fish between Ice Harbor and Lower Monumental dams. For all the details of this latest creel survey, see wdfw.wa.gov/fish/creel...index.htm.
A just-concluded fish survey by WDFW staff on Lake Roosevelt indicates that kokanee and rainbow trout boat fishing throughout the reservoir is excellent now. With recent consistent freezing temperatures, ice fishing is under way at several year-round or winter-only lakes in the region. Spokane County’s Hog Canyon Lake is producing nice catches of 10- to 13-inch rainbow trout, and Fourth of July Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line continues to provide action on trout up to 20 inches. Fourth of July Lake rules allow no more than two trout over 14 inches, and lots of anglers have had to release big fish there. Williams and Hatch lakes in Stevens County are providing 10-inch rainbows through the ice. Waitts Lake in Stevens County and Eloika Lake in Spokane County are producing yellow perch through the ice. Sprague Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line, which has walleye, bass, crappie, bluegill, perch, and rainbows, is also seeing some ice-fishing action now, too.
North Central Washington
Fishing: WDFW fish biologist Bob Jateff of Omak reports that steelhead fishing in the upper Columbia River system has slowed considerably due to cold temperatures and icing conditions in the rivers. “Most fish are being caught in the mainstem Columbia above Wells Dam,” Jateff said. “Anglers need to remember that when they record fish on their catch record cards, just fill in data from fish that they have retained. Released fish do not get recorded.” Jateff also reports that the colder temperatures have made the ice thick enough for fishing in some of the lakes in Okanogan County. Upper and Lower Green lakes near Okanogan and Little Twin Lake near Winthrop offer good opportunities for rainbow trout through the ice. Rat Lake near Brewster is also open and due to a scheduled lake rehabilitation in the spring, with no size or bag limits until March 31. Sprague Lake on the Adams-Lincoln county line, which has walleye, bass, crappie, bluegill, yellow perch and rainbows, is also seeing some ice-fishing action now, too.
South Central Washington
Fishing: WDFW fish biologist Jim Cummins reports that whitefish fishing continues on the Yakima and Naches rivers. Anglers should be cautious about shoreline shelf ice and other hazards with wintery conditions. Those fishing enthusiasts who want a little indoor adventure at this time of year can visit the WDFW booth at the Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show, Jan. 21-23, at the TRAC in Pasco. WDFW fish program staff will have information there about two new water access sites along the Yakima River and about the Yakima fall chinook salmon fishery and the Ringold steelhead fishery. See www.shuylerproductions.com/tcss.php
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"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."