Fishing: Sockeye salmon have been moving up the Columbia River in record numbers in recent weeks, arriving in Central Washington waters just in time for the summer weather. But catching sockeye is proving to be a challenge. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options for anglers right now, including chinook, rainbow trout, bass and catfish.
A creel check in the John Day Pool conducted the week of June 21-27 tallied 150 anglers in 60 boats, along with 36 bank fishers. The bank anglers caught an estimated 53 hatchery summer chinook and released 14 wild fish. No sockeye were observed in the catch that week, even though upwards of 21,000 sockeye passed by the John Day Dam each day.
The number of boaters dropped off dramatically the following week, as did the catch. Thirty-four anglers surveyed during the week ending July 4 had caught three hatchery chinook and released three wild fish. As in the previous week, all salmon were caught from the bank.
Paul Hoffarth, WDFW’s fish biologist in Pasco, credits high water in the Columbia River for the difficulty anglers have had catching salmon from a boat. Conditions, though, are improving. Flows in the Yakima River is back to normal, and the Snake and Columbia rivers have begun to go down, setting the stage for better bass and walleye fishing, said Hoffarth.
Hoffarth reminds anglers that all wild, unmarked chinook salmon and steelhead must be released. The daily limit is six hatchery chinook, up to two of which may be adults. Anglers must stop fishing once they retain the adult portion of their daily limit. Any steelhead retained counts toward the daily limit of two adult fish, said Hoffarth, who reminds anglers that the Yakima River is closed to salmon and steelhead fishing.
Steelhead fishing remains closed for the Columbia River upstream of the Highway 395 bridge and in the Snake River until the fall.
As for the difficulty of catching sockeye, WDFW fish and wildlife biologist Joe Hymer says that for a variety of reasons they are a hard fish to catch. “Sockeye mainly feed on zooplankton/krill, and most (river) anglers don’t use gear that a sockeye would typically eat,” he said. “A lot of times they use gear that is too big.”
The single-minded nature of sockeye also makes them hard to catch, Hymer said. “Sockeye move through an area pretty quickly,” he said. “In the lower Columbia, we see pretty good catches if the water is high and cool. But when the water drops and warms, the fish go deeper. Not until they get into a concentrated area like Lake Wenatchee and Lake Osoyoos, where anglers troll slow using gear that’s small and easier to bite, do catch rates go up.”
As in other areas, water levels in the upper Naches and upper Yakima tributaries have continued to drop, making them easier to fish. Eric Anderson, WDFW fish and wildlife biologist in Yakima, said this trend should continue through the summer, when fishing in most tributaries should be good for wild trout, cutthroat, rainbow and brook trout. Anglers should note that it is closed to fishing for or retaining bull trout, salmon and steelhead throughout the Yakima River basin.
“We have continued to stock lakes in the region and all are posted on the WDFW website’s catchable trout stocking reports,” said Anderson. “All of those reports have been updated with the latest triploid trout plants. “
Anderson reminds anglers they can research lakes by county by going to the 2010 Washington Fishing Prospects report http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/prospects/. He advises, however, that before heading out to an unfamiliar lake or stream, anglers should check the Washington Fishing Regulations at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regs_seasons.html
“Each stream and lake you intend to fish may have different rules and catch limit restrictions,” said Anderson.
For those who don’t mind a little hike, Anderson says that as the weather warms and the snow recedes, Central Washington’s high mountain lakes provide good angling opportunities. The region’s high lakes fish stocking information is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/regions/reg3/r3_highlakes.htm
Kokanee are continuing to bite at Keechelus and Rimrock lakes, where the daily catch limit is 16 fish.
Jumbo triploid trout were planted at Lost Lake in Kittitas County, as well as in Dog and Leech lakes in Yakima County. These fish are running about 1.5 pounds each. Leech Lake is fly-fishing only. Also in June, 4,500 catchable-size trout and 200 jumbos were planted in Easton Pond in Kittitas County.
Sturgeon fishing remains open in Lake Wallula (McNary Dam to Priest Rapids/Ice Harbor Dams) through July of this year. However, sturgeon fishing is prohibited from in the sturgeon sanctuaries from Goose Island upstream to Ice Harbor Dam in the Snake River and upstream of the Priest Rapids Hatchery outlet to Priest Rapids Dam in the Columbia River.
Hunting: WDFW has published this year’s special hunt drawing results. Hunters can find out how they fared in the lottery by going to http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/ and typing in their 11 digit WILD ID number.
Wildlife viewing: While this is a great time to recreate outdoors, be aware that with summer come mosquitoes, heat and intense sun. Be sure to guard against all three with bug spray, sun screen and plenty of water to keep hydrated. And watch out for rattlesnakes.
This is also the time of year when birds need sources of fresh, cool water.. By keeping bird baths replenished, you can set the stage for close-up views of birds without leaving the comfort of your patio or air conditioned home. Commonly found in backyards this time of year are lots of rufous and calliope hummingbirds feeding at both sugar-water feeders and natural nectar-producing flowers. Those birders who venture to the mountains will be rewarded with a variety of birds, including brown creepers to yellow-rumped warblers.
WDFW biologists are asking hunters and hikers to keep an eye out for Canada geese that have been banded as part of an ongoing effort to track their movements, their lifespan and how they use rural and urban habitat.
This is the third consecutive year of the study. As in past years, WDFW is asking waterfowl hunters and hikers to report leg band information if they harvest or encounter a marked goose. The highly visible collars can be reported by any observer.
Reports of band or collar codes, along with locations and dates, should be made to U.S. Geological Survey Bird Banding Laboratory at 1-800-327-BAND, or online at http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBL/homepage/call800.htm.