Fishing: Columbia River anglers have been reeling in over 1,400 spring chinook salmon per day during the first full week of April, raising questions about how long the lower river would remain open to fishing. After some deliberation, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon agreed that the fishery below the I-5 Bridge will remain open as planned through Sunday, April 18.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that will be the last day to catch spring chinook on the lower river this year. In establishing this year’s season, fishery managers set aside a "buffer" until this year’s near-record run forecast of 470,000 upriver fish can be verified by dam counts. If the count looks good, WDFW will announce additional fishing time in early to mid-May, said Cindy LeFleur, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator.
"At this point, the upriver run is definitely looking strong, but we’ll have to see how the count at Bonneville Dam shakes out over the next few weeks," LeFleur said. "After our experience during the past two years, we need to make sure that the forecast is on track before we reopen the fishery."
So what’s an angler to do between now and then? Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist, has some ideas:
Fish a tributary: Anglers are picking up spring chinook in the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis rivers, although winter-run steelhead are still providing most of the action on the Cowlitz. Thirty-one boat anglers reported catching 23 hatchery steelhead (plus one released) and one adult spring chinook in a recent creel check focused around the trout hatchery and Blue Creek. The 47 bank anglers surveyed had two hatchery steelhead and three springers.
Meanwhile, summer steelhead also are moving into several tributaries to the lower Columbia - including the lower Washougal and East Fork Lewis rivers. Both of those rivers open for fishing April 16 under selective gear rules (no bait). Check the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ) for catch limits and other regulations applicable to these rivers.
Head upriver: Time may be running short for spring chinook fishing on the lower Columbia River, but the fishery from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam is scheduled to remain open seven days a week through May. With upwards of 1,000 fish per day now moving up the fish ladders, anglers fishing the mainstem above Bonneville are starting to catch some spring chinook. Bank fishing only is permitted from Bonneville Dam to Tower Island powerlines, located about six miles below The Dalles Dam.
Boat anglers at Wind and Drano Lake have also been taking a few springers, while bank anglers fishing the Klickitat River downstream from Fisher Hill Bridge have been catching newly arriving summer steelhead. Drano Lake is closed to all fishing on Wednesdays through May. Also, effective April 16, bank fishing only will be allowed west of a line projected from the eastern-most pillar of the Highway 14 Bridge to a posted marker on the north shore of the lake. Check the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ) for catch limits and other regulations applicable to these waters.
Dig some razor clams: Diggers recently got a green light to proceed with a morning razor-clam dig running Friday, April 16, through Sunday April 18, at Long Beach and Twin Harbors. Kalaloch Beach, further north will also open for digging April 17-18. Low morning tides will be at 8:32 a.m. (-0.7) April 16, at 9:12 a.m. (-0.7) April 17, and at 9:56 a.m. (-0.6) April 18. No digging will be allowed after noon any of those days.
Diggers are reminded that they must have a valid 2010-11 license to participate in the dig. Fishing and hunting licenses may be purchased by phone (1-866-246-9453), over the Internet ( https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/ ), or from license vendors throughout the state (see http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors for a list).
Catch some trout: Hundreds of lowland lakes open for trout fishing April 24 throughout the state, drawing tens of thousands of anglers out for their first cast of the year. While most lakes in southwest Washington are open year-round, "opening day" does mark the start of trout fishing in such perennial favorites as Mineral Lake (Lewis County), Swift Reservoir (Skamania County) and Rowland Lakes (Klickitat County).
Meanwhile, WDFW recently stocked several year-round lakes with catchable-size rainbows, some weighing up to a half-pound apiece: South Lewis County Park Pond near Toledo (3,042 fish), Lake Sacajawea in Longview (3,016 fish), Kress Lake in Kalama (2,067 fish) and Lacamas Lake in Camas (3,500 fish). A complete trout-stocking schedule for all lakes in Washington is posted on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants .
Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. For more information, a Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet is available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/turkey .
Meanwhile, hunters have an opportunity to comment on a draft plan to guide management of the state’s white-tailed deer populations. Developed by WDFW over the past year, the five-year plan outlines strategies for sustainably managing the game animals throughout their range in eastern Washington. Other key goals include maintaining stable deer-hunting opportunities for state citizens and reducing deer-related damage to crops and other personal property.
The draft plan, along with an electronic comment form, is posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wildlife/management/white-tailed_deer . Public comments will be accepted through April 23 before a final plan is reviewed by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and forwarded to the WDFW director for approval.
Wildlife viewing: With the arrival of spring, the Vancouver Lowlands have come to resemble Grand Central Station, enlivened by great movements of birds in and out of key nesting and resting areas. Several thousand Canada geese are now on display at the Shillapoo Wildlife Area, although thousands more have already flown west down the Columbia River, leaving their wintering grounds for points north.
"The birds seem to follow the Columbia to the ocean, then turn north to Canada and Alaska," said Sandra Jonker, WDFW wildlife manager for southwest Washington. Meanwhile, osprey have returned to the region, inspecting their nests and preparing for the breeding season. In recent weeks, birders and anglers have reported sighting osprey from marshlands near Vancouver to the Cowlitz River.
Birds aren’t the only species in transit these days. More than 3,500 spring chinook salmon passed by the fish-viewing window at Bonneville Dam in a single day, and thousands more are right behind them.
To monitor daily fish counts from home, check the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/op/fishdata/home.asp . Or stop by the Washington Shore Visitor Complex and see the annual parade of fish for yourself. To get there, take Washington State Highway 14 east to Milepost 40 (about 5 miles from Stevenson) and turn into the Bonneville Dam visitor center. The visitor center is the glass building at the end of the powerhouse.