Low flows and clear water have made river fishing a real challenge this week. Nearly all rivers west of the Cascade Mountains are suffering from this affliction, which has resulted in spooky fish and a sporadic bite.
Steelhead fishing was pretty good in the lower Columbia River last weekend but has since slowed. Some chinook and steelhead are being caught in the Klickitat, and a few steelhead are being caught in the Wind and Kalama rivers. Fishing has been slow in the Lewis.
There is a good mix of steelhead, cutthroat, sockeye and a few silvers in Olympic Peninsula rivers, but fishing has been slow because of low water.
The Skykomish has been producing modest catches of chinook, and fair catches of chinook are being had in the Cowlitz at the barrier dam and steelhead at Blue Creek. Fishing has been slow in the lower river.
Sturgeon fishing has been fair in the lower Columbia, and pikeminnow catches have been very good in the Bingen, The Dalles and Cathlamet areas. Catches of shad also have been good in the gorge and Camas/Washougal areas.
Area lake fishing has slowed for trout but has been very good for warm-water species.
Halibut fishing was good last weekend in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and in Marine Area 2 (Westport to Ocean Shores). Salmon fishing has been exceedingly slow in Marine Areas 11 (Tacoma to Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound).
Boat anglers are reminded that when fishing, they must carry an S.O.S. sounding device, as required by law.
COLUMBIA: Angler effort was heavy last weekend, and catches were good, but fishing has since slowed. On Saturday, a total of 333 Washington and 241 Oregon bank anglers were counted from the Interstate 5 Bridge downstream, said Joe Hymer, Pacific States Marine Fishery Commission supervisory fish biologist.
Most of the fish caught were summer steelhead, followed by adult and jack chinook (adults had to be released) and sockeye. Overall, bank anglers from the Interstate 5 Bridge downstream averaged a salmon kept/released for every 6.8 rods. Fishing was slower for boat anglers.
The mainstem Columbia from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco is open to fishing for chinook jacks (fin-clipped or not), hatchery steelhead and sockeye. Starting Monday through July 5, adult chinook may be retained below Bonneville Dam and beginning July 1 from Bonneville Dam upstream.
KALAMA: Steelhead fishing hasn’t been great, but it hasn’t been too bad considering that the water conditions are low and clear. Most of the action and catching is being had in the canyon, with the best bite period coming during early morning and late-evening hours, said Barbara Orzel of Pritchard’s Western Angler. Because of conditions, driftboat usage is not recommended.
Fly fishing has been good throughout the river.
Through July, all chinook must be released. A total of 180 hatchery and 37 wild summer steelhead have returned to Kalama Falls Hatchery, but spring chinook returns continue to be below the hatchery escapement goal.
COWLITZ: Last week, 109 spring chinook, 60 jacks and 73 summer steelhead returned to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery. During the week, 38 chinook and 46 jacks were released into the upper Cowlitz River at Skate Creek Bridge. Also last week, trout from Nisqually Trout Farms were stocked in Skate Creek and the Tilton River at Gus Backstrom Park in Morton.
Bank anglers have been doing well catching spring chinook at the barrier dam and steelhead at Blue Creek, said Don Glaser of Barrier Dam Campground. Boat angling has been decent at times, but high flows have been a problem. Fishing has been slow in the lower river.
OLYMPIC PENINSULA: Low, clear water conditions are prevalent throughout the area. Although steelhead, cutthroat, sockeye and some silvers are in the rivers, the catching has been difficult. Unless we get some rain, fishing is going to get tougher, according to Bob Gooding of Olympic Sporting Goods in Forks. The Sol Duc probably is the best all- around choice to fish, but there are no guarantees.
WASHOUGAL: Anglers are reported to be doing well for steelhead and particularly well for “recycled” fish. Through June 10, a total of 442 hatchery steelhead had been recycled downstream.
SKYKOMISH: Some chinook are being caught in the Reiter Pond area, said Craig Holman of Sky Valley Traders. The river is reported to be in good shape.
LEWIS: Through Monday, almost 600 hatchery summer steelhead had returned to the Merwin Dam trap. The hatchery goal is 1,250 spring chinook to fulfill the program needs. Through July, all chinook must be released. Fishing is reported to be very slow.
TOUTLE: A few steelhead are being caught in the lower river, which is very fishable, said Jim McDaniels of Tumwater Sports. Maribow jigs under a float tipped with a worm and corkies and yarn are being used.
WIND: Bank anglers in the gorge and upper river continue to catch some chinook, but effort has dropped off to almost nothing. Through Monday, a total of 1,699 chinook had returned to the Carson National Fish Hatchery. The goal of 1,200 fish has been met. Through June, the daily limit is six fish, of which no more than two may be adult salmon or hatchery steelhead – or one of each. Wild chinook must be released below Shipherd Falls.
GREEN (King County): There have been no reports of angling success.
KLICKITAT: Bank anglers are catching a mixture of chinook and summer steelhead. The river up to the salmon hatchery is open to adult hatchery chinook retention.
DRANO LAKE: Effort has been light, and so have the catches.
SPANAWAY: Early morning hours have been the best bite period the past few days, with boat and bank anglers catching limits of trout, said Bud Herlitzka of Spanaway Boathouse. Still-fishing has been more productive than trolling, with Power Bait the preferred bait. Bank anglers are using the same bait. On Saturday, a 5-pound trout was caught at the south end of the lake. Overall, fishing has been very good.
MINERAL: Nice limits of rainbows and a few browns are being caught. Some of the fish have been in the 2-pound range. On Friday, a Mineral Lake angler caught an 8-pound, 5-ounce rainbow using a worm-and-marshmallow combination.
Power Eggs – any color – continue to be the popular bait on a 3- to 4-foot leader with a slip bobber. Most boats are fishing at the north end of the lake, where the water is a little cooler. Early morning and late-evening hours have been good bite periods.
SWOFFORD POND and MAYFIELD: Bank anglers are catching some rainbows.
RIFFE: Landlocked coho and steelhead are being caught by bank anglers.
HARTS: Warm-water species (blue gill, crappie and perch) are biting well, and nice strings of all three are being caught, said Carol Parsons of Harts Lake Resort. On Saturday, Castle Rock angler Michael Croft caught an 11-pound channel catfish on a spinner and worm. Also Saturday, 4-year-old Damien Brown caught four rainbows – his first fish – using a worm under a bobber. Trout catches have leveled off but are decent.
OFFUT: The trout bite has been sporadic during midday hours but good during early morning and late-evening hours. Water temperatures are warming, and the trout have been holding in deep water. Bank and dock anglers have been fishing Power Baits on long leaders near the bottom, and boat anglers have been trolling spinners, flies and sometimes a worm. Offut Lake Resort is sponsoring a Father’s Day Fishing Derby this weekend. First prize is a trolling motor.
AMERICAN: Limits of trout are being had by boat anglers in a very short time trolling worms, said Dave Anderson of Bill’s Boathouse. Dock anglers also are catching nice strings of trout using light-colored Power Bait and worms.
ALDER: Crappie catches have been very good, and so have catches of smallmouth bass, said Chuck Parks of Alder Lake Groceries. Both species are being caught along the lake’s shoreline, with maggots and worms being the preferred baits. Some small kokanee also are being caught.
Boat anglers sampled at the Deep River ramp last weekend averaged one legal fish kept for every five rods. Bank anglers have been catching some legal fish. Charter boat anglers have been averaging one keeper every other rod.
Almost 700 private boats and few dozen charters were counted Saturday. There was a sturgeon derby in Chinook, which might explain the number of boats in the area. On Tuesday, a little more than 210 private and 12 charter boats were counted.
Boat anglers in the Longview area are finding some keepers, as are bank anglers in Woodland.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that sturgeon fishing was good in the estuary but slow for legal-size fish elsewhere in the lower Columbia.
Last week, 8,462 pikeminnows were caught, with nine tagged fish recovered. Catching was very good at The Dalles, where 304 anglers caught 2,002 pikes. In the Cathlamet area, 1,114 pikeminnows were caught by 178 anglers. At Bingen, 34 anglers caught 411 pikeminnows.
For the season, 30,980 pikeminnows have been caught, with 37 tagged fish recovered. A reward of $500 is paid for each tagged fish recovered. On Sunday, the water temperature at Bonneville Dam was 61.6 degrees.
Flows in the Lower Columbia have dropped over the past week. On Monday, the average flows at Bonneville Dam were 250,000 cubic feet per second. Less than a week ago, flow had been in the 350,000 cubic feet per second range. Flows are expected to remain lower for at least the next week and a half.
Boat anglers in the Kalama and gorge areas averaged nearly three shad per rod last week. In the Camas/Washougal area, bank anglers are averaging just over a fish per rod. Through June 14, more than a million shad had been counted at Bonneville Dam. By comparison, a little more than a third of a million had been counted by this time last year.
Outdoors correspondent Bob Brown has lived in Washington for 35 years and got serious about fishing the region’s rivers and lakes in the mid-1970s. He can be reached at email@example.com.