Fishing: For Columbia River anglers, this month provides a great opportunity for a triple play. Fishing seasons for fall chinook salmon and hatchery coho open Aug. 1, while summer steelhead are expected to continue providing good fishing well into September.
While the fall chinook season opens upriver to Priest Rapids Dam, most of this month’s action takes place in the popular Buoy 10 fishery on the lower 16 miles of the river. A big run of 664,900 fall chinook is expected this year, setting the stage for some good fishing, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
“The fall chinook fishery is looking very promising this year,” Hymer said. “Fishing tends to start slow, then accelerates quickly and builds through the rest of August.”
So will the catch. Fishery managers estimate that anglers will catch 12,500 chinook salmon by Aug. 31, when the retention fishery for chinook closes in the Buoy 10 area. They also anticipate a catch of 12,000 coho in that area and another 17,000 chinook between Rocky Point and Bonneville Dam by the time those seasons come to a close.
Bank anglers planning to fish at Buoy 10 should be aware that access to much of the North Jetty will be closed, due to a major project being conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reinforce beaches eroded by winter storms. “The North jetty provides the only real bank access to that fishery, so things could get a little crowded,” Hymer said.
For the Buoy 10 fishery, the daily limit is two salmon, two hatchery steelhead, or one of each. However, anglers may retain only one chinook salmon (minimum size, 24 inches) per day as part of their daily limit. Only those steelhead and coho marked with a missing adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained. This requirement does not, however, apply to fall chinook, which may be retained whether marked or unmarked.
For more rules on the Buoy 10 area and other waters upriver, see WDFW’s Fishing in Washington pamphlet, which is posted online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm
By mid-to-late August, the bulk of the chinook run historically begins to move upstream while increasing numbers of coho move into the Columbia River behind them. For anglers following the chinook upriver, Hymer recommends fishing deep, between 40 and 50 feet down. For a lure, he suggests a wobbler anchored with a heavy weight.
“Chinook go deep when water temperatures are high – as they are now – so that’s a good place to find them,” Hymer said. “At the same time, anglers should take care not to drop anchor in the shipping channel. That can lead to real trouble.”
While 2010 is not expected to be a banner year for hatchery coho, those fish will help to round out anglers’ daily limits at Buoy 10, Hymer said. WDFW currently expects about 290,000 coho to return this year, down significantly from last year’s exceptionally large run of three-quarters of a million fish.
“While we will likely see fewer coho this year, those fish will still make a real contribution to the fishery,” Hymer said. “They usually bite best at Buoy 10 on herring and spinners, and then later in the tributaries.”
Meanwhile, plenty of hatchery steelhead are still available for harvest, Hymer said. In June, anglers caught more early-run summer steelhead than at any time since the 1970s, and those fish should keep biting hooks through mid-August. By then, the larger “B-run” steelhead – many weighing in the teens – should start arriving to pick up the slack. This year’s return of “B-run” steelhead, most headed for hatcheries on the Clearwater and Salmon rivers, is expected to total about 100,000 fish, about double the size of last year’s run.
“The combination of three species – fall chinook, coho and steelhead – makes August a great time to fish the Columbia River,” Hymer said.
They’ll also liven up fishing in the tributaries, where anglers have been reeling in respectable numbers of hatchery steelhead for the past few months. As on the mainstem Columbia, the fall salmon season starts Aug. 1 on a number of area tributaries, although salmon fishing doesn’t really take off until September. Meanwhile, Drano Lake and the White Salmon River are good places to try for steelhead looking for cooler waters.
Like last year, anglers will again be able to retain up to six hatchery adult coho on all tributaries to the lower Columbia River with hatchery programs. Those rivers include the Cowlitz, Deep, Elochoman, Grays (including West Fork), Kalama, Klickitat, Lewis (including North Fork), Toutle (including Green and North Fork) and Washougal. Also like last year, hatchery fall chinook are the only kind of salmon anglers can retain on the Grays, Elochoman and Kalama rivers.
Some new rules will also be in effect, including a requirement that anglers release
all unmarked chinook (adults and jacks) on the Cowlitz, Toutle, Green, Washougal, Wind and White Salmon rivers, plus Drano Lake. Last year, that requirement applied only to jack salmon on those rivers.
As always, WDFW strongly advises anglers to check the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet for new rules applicable to specific waters before leaving home.
Of course, salmon and steelhead aren’t the only fish available for harvest in August. Walleye fishing has been good in the Columbia River near Camas, as well as in The Dalles and John Day Pools. Bass fishing has also been heating up from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam.
For trout, the high wilderness lakes around Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens offer unparalleled fishing experiences for those willing to brave the mosquitoes. Riffe Lake in Lewis County is still giving up some nice landlocked coho, while Mayfield Lake, Skate Creek and the Tilton River are still receiving regular plants of rainbows. Hatchery sea-run cutthroats should also provide some opportunity on the lower Cowlitz beginning in late August.
Hunting: The general hunting season for black bear opens Aug. 1 in coastal game management units and Aug. 14 in the South Cascades area. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season. Check the Big Game Hunting Seasons and Rules pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/hunter/hunter.htm) for details.
Coming up in September are early archery seasons for elk, early archery and muzzleloader seasons for deer, and a general hunting season for cougar that gets under way with an archery-only season followed by a muzzleloader hunt. Also opening in September are seasons for forest grouse, dove and Canada geese.
Wildlife viewing: The summer sun may be shining high in the sky, but shorebirds can already feel a seasonal change. Tens of thousands of the them – sandpipers, yellowlegs, dowitchers and other species – are already flocking to Washington’s coastal areas en route from their Arctic breeding grounds to points south. Clouds of shorebirds, especially sandpipers, can now be seen from Ocean Shores to Ilwaco.
Unlike their spring migration, shorebirds’ flight south is a disorderly affair. Adults often leave the Arctic before their chicks are fledged and join flocks departing at different times. They also travel at a more leisurely pace, stretching from July through October. This is also the time when most rare birds, such as off-course Asian shorebirds, show up on the coast.
Brian Calkins, manager of WDFW’s Shillapoo Wildlife Area, didn’t see many shorebirds during a recent walk along one of the water-control structures near the end of the
Erwin O. Reiger Highway. The “peeps” don’t usually arrive until later, when the water level in the wetlands drops. He did, however, sight a variety of other birds, including common snipe, pied-bill grebe, coots, American bittern, mourning dove and mallards with broods of ducklings.
“All of those birds were on display during a 15-minute walk without binoculars,” Calkins said. “I’m sure I could have seen a lot of other species if I’d had time to look.”
Meanwhile, the chances of spotting a white-tailed deer in the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge recently improved, thanks to efforts by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife (USDFW) to augment that population with white-tails from southwest Oregon. The agency transported eight animals in March and was able to locate six of them last month.
About 300 Columbia white-tailed deer, listed as “endangered” by the federal agency, currently live in the refuge. Another 300 to 400 live on private lands along the Columbia River.
Anyone watching wildlife or pursuing other activities outdoors should be aware that the Washington State Department of Natural Resources has instituted a burn ban on all state lands, including those owned or managed by WDFW. Exceptions include recreational fires in approved fire pits or self-contained stoves and barbeques using gas or propane. See http://www.dnr.wa.gov/Pages/default.aspx for more information.