Steelheading hitting its stride in Bogachiel, Hoh

Winter steelheading has been pretty good throughout western Washington this week.

The numbers of migrating hatchery steelhead returning to the Bogachiel and Hoh rivers have been the best in a couple of years and has resulted in some noteworthy catch rates and exciting fishing.

Steelheading also has been good in the Lewis near the hatchery, and although fishing has not been quite as good as in the Lewis, some decent catches of steelhead also are being had in the Kalama.

Fishing has been fair in the Skykomish, King County’s Green River and Cowlitz below the mouth of the Toutle. Fishing has been slow at Blue Creek and it has slowed in the Wynoochee, Satsop and Humptulip rivers.

Some action is being had in the Nisqually for chum and also the same in the Puyallup.

The 2010 spring-chinook forecast for the Wind and Klickitat rivers plus Drano Lake is 47,500 adults. The majority of returning adult chinook are expected to be 4-year-olds, said Joe Hymer, supervisory fish biologist for the Pacific States Marine Fishery Commission.

Wind River return is forecasted to be 14,000 chinook, which would be highest since 2003 and more than 300 percent greater than the recent five-year average.

The forecasted return of 4,500 chinook to the Klickitat would be the second highest since at least 1977, and the forecasted 28,900 chinook returning to Drano Lake would be the largest since 1970.

Saltwater fishing in northern Puget Sound has been just a little better than poor. Samplings taken Sunday at Camano Island’s public boat ramp counted 58 boat anglers with five chinook, and at the Bellingham public ramp 47 anglers had six chinook.

Fishing hasn’t been any better in central Puget Sound, where 47 boat anglers sampled at Everett had four chinook, and at Shilshole 22 boat anglers had two chinook.

Fishing continues to be slow in Marine Area 11. There was a little action Sunday in the Misery Point area where 10 boat anglers caught four chinook. Some action also was had in front of the Point Defiance Boathouse and Marina.

A few anglers caught their limits of blackmouth, said Art Tachell of Point Defiance Boathouse and Marina.

Salmon fishing closes Friday in Marine Area 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 12 (Hood Canal). Both areas are scheduled to reopen to fishing for salmon Feb. 1.

Marine Area 13 (South Puget Sound) remains open through Jan. 31.

Sport and commercial fishing for smelt will open on the mainstem Columbia on Friday, but neither fishery should expect windfall catches. Sport fishing will be open seven days a week while commercial fishing will be open Mondays and Thursdays only through March 31.

State fishery managers are predicting low returns of Pacific smelt in 2010, and NOAA Fisheries have proposed listing Pacific smelt as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officials have scheduled a public meeting Wednesday in Kelso to discuss prospects for smelt fisheries on the Cowlitz River and other Columbia River tributaries in 2010.

The meeting will be from 6 to 8 p.m. on the third floor of the Cowlitz County Administration Building at 207 4th Ave. N. in Kelso.

Fishery managers are thinking long and hard about what kind of smelt fishery – if any – makes sense in light of the proposed Endangered Species Act listing.

“Before we begin making those decisions, we’d like to hear what the public has to say,” said Bill Tweit, WDFW Columbia River policy leader.

A scientific review by NOAA Fisheries found that smelt are declining throughout their West Coast range due mostly to changes in ocean conditions.


Olympic Peninsula: Fishing has been good on the Bogachiel and lower Hoh. Water conditions are good and numbers of steelhead in both rivers are equally as good, said Bob Gooding of Olympic Sporting Goods in Forks. The Sol Duc is fishable, but there is not a lot of fish in the river, Conditions are the same in the Calawah.

Samplings, taken on the Bogachiel last weekend counted 163 anglers with two wild steelhead kept, plus 120 hatchery steelhead kept (15 were released). Samplings on the lower Hoh counted 79 anglers with one wild steelhead kept, two released and 12 hatchery kept and three released. Fishing was about the same in the upper Hoh.

Nisqually: There has been increasing numbers of chum moving into the river and catching has improved below the Mount Road Bridge and above the handicap area. Corkies and yarn have been the preferred bait (green has been a good choice) with best bite during early morning and evening hours. Jamie West of Fort Lewis said fishing has been great at times, but can be over whelming, however it is a 100 percent better than fishing in Colorado.

Puyallup: Some chum, plus the odd steelhead, are being caught in the lower river. Fishing hasn’t been great, but it has been steady.

Skookumchuck: There has been some very light angler activity in the upper river near the hatchery. There have been no reports of steelhead being caught.

Kalama: Steelheading has been very good the past few days, said a spokesperson for Pritchard’s Western Angler. Catches have been good near the painted rock, the deadline and the red barn with jig and bobbers the preferred bait. Some anglers are using size 4 and 5 blue spinners with moderate success. A couple of late coho were caught in the lower river last weekend. Only about 900 spring chinook are forecasted to return to the river in 2010.

Lewis: Fishing has been excellent for steelhead near the hatchery, but the area is crowded with anglers, said Elaine Byrnes of Anglers Workshop. The majority of anglers have been fishing with jigs and bobbers. Monday, flows were 3,490 cubic feet per second. Approximately 6,000 spring chinook are forecasted to return to the Lewis in 2010.

Cowlitz: Last week, 322 coho, seven jacks and 180 winter steelhead returned to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery. Tacoma Power employees released 45 coho and one winter steelhead into Lake Scanewa, and 20 coho into the Tilton River at Gus Backstrom Park in Morton. Flows Monday were 6,750 cubic feet per second. Spring chinook returns to the Cowlitz in 2010 is forecasted to be 12,500 fish.

The Blue Creek area has been smothered with boat activity, but the catching hasn’t been the best, said Karen Glaser of Barrier Dam Campground. Low flows with a visibility of about 10 to 12 feet have made the fish spooky, resulting in low catch rates. At barrier dam angler activity has been light and so have the catches. Fishing has been fair in the lower river, said Jarrod Ligh of 4 Corners Store in Castle Rock. Bank anglers fishing just below the mouth of the Toutle and down river have been catching few steelhead, and so have boat anglers. Water levels are low with good color.

Chehalis: Steelhead are being caught from the mouth up river to Rochester, said Charles McElroy of Sunbirds in Chehalis. Fishing has been fair most of the time.

Willapa and Naselle: Both rivers are low and clear. There are steelhead in both rivers and some are being caught, but not without time and effort.

Skykomish: Steelheading activity hasn’t been great, but it has been fairly steady, said Craig Holman of Sky Valley Traders. Most of the action has been taking place at the mouth of the Wallace River and near the Reiter Ponds steelhead facility.

Wynoochee: Fishing has been slow. There have been more boats on the river than fish, said Ron Adams of Verles Sports in Shelton. Fishing guide, Casey Weigel of Casey Of West Waters Guide Service reported fishing has been fair in the lower river.

Satsop: Fishing has been slow for bank anglers. There have been no reports on boat angling activity or success.

Humptulips: Fishing has been the same as on the Wynoochee.

Green (King County): There has been a fair number of steelhead being caught in the Auburn area, said Todd Rock of Auburn Sports and Marine. Anglers plunking are using sand shrimp and eggs. Also being used are bobbers/ jigs and drifting sand shrimp and eggs. Morning hours have been the best bite period. River conditions are low and clear. There have been reports of some late arrival chum in the lower river.


Spanaway: Boat anglers still fishing at the south/east side of the lake have been catching trout in the one- two pound range. No limits. Pink Power Bait has been the preferred bait, said Bud Herlitzka of Spanaway Park Boathouse. Bank angling has been slow with light angler participation.

Offut: Angler activity has been light due to current conditions, but a few trout have been caught off the fishing dock. Most of the catching has been had during mid-day hours with a variety of baits used.

American: Fishing hasn’t been note worthy the past few days. Catching has been light and so has angler activity, said David Anderson of Bill’s Boathouse.

Spencer: Anglers have been catching some limits of trout in the 16 inch range. Power Bait on the bottom and Woolly Buggers have been the preferred baits.

Outdoors correspondent Bob Brown can be reached at