Vancouver Metro Area
Steelheading is picking up in some tributaries, but low, cold water could affect the bite, especially in the smaller tribs. Trout stockings continue to boost fishing in the local lowland lakes, and kokanee anglers continue to do well.
There is a winter advisory in effect for this week and into the weekend, with snow and cold temps expected. The low snow level will mean cold water and possibly slow fishing, and may keep many anglers off the water.
A smelt dip in the Cowlitz is still a possibility, but slow commercial catches and worries about the Covid-19 pandemic have the fishery on hold. If case rates in Cowlitz County drop or hold, a fishery could still be allowed.
The Weather Outside is Frightful…
Columbia River Fishing Report – Still not much to report on for Columbia River fisheries, but there is plenty of good news on the horizon, we’ll cover that a bit later.
As far as spring Chinook goes, still no sign of spring Chinook on the mainstem although bank anglers pursuing winter steelhead certainly have a chance at one. With the onset of colder, windy weather, effort will drop to nothing if anyone has any sense about themselves. An east wind whipping down the Columbia River is something most people never have to experience, certainly not a 2nd time.
Bonneville passage remains at zero.
The lower Columbia wasn’t busy for crabbers last week. Tides were far from conducive for sport crabbing; they were outgoing for a large portion of the day, and strong outgoing tides to boot. Ocean crabbers weren’t disappointed however, we’ll tell that story in the N. Coast section however.
Recreational crabbers didn’t really take advantage of the wide open opportunity north of Cape Falcon, but that window has now closed. The commercial fleet will be allowed to dump pots starting February 13th, for a February 16th retrieval date. Commercially caught crab must have the guts and gills removed before sale (that’s done at the processing plants) to avoid the domoic acid toxin. HERE is the press release on the ensuing opener.
Observers are reporting that the smelt seemed to have disappeared from the mainstem. Commercial netters didn’t do all that well, certainly not well enough to prosecute a sport season anyway. It might be a bust this year.
The Guide’s Forecast – Conditions aren’t going to be any more conducive to fishing on the mainstem this weekend or next week either. With a bitter east wind blowing downstream fishing will be more than uncomfortable for the near future.
If you’re a crabber, East Wind + Incoming Tide = Have your life insurance policy up to date…
The Columbia just won’t be a great place to recreate for the near future.
The more promising news comes from fisheries that lie ahead, in particular the spring Chinook and especially the coho returns coming back this fall. Columbia River Recreational Advisors met yesterday (Wednesday, February 10th) to discuss spring Chinook options and the good news is, it looks as if there will be enough Cowlitz River spring Chinook coming back to prosecute a lower river spring Chinook fishery this year. Although this is certainly good news, that doesn’t make the fishing all that much greater, just the opportunity. None-the-less, the lower Columbia is a great place to spring Chinook fish, and it looks like we’ll get that option this year. This at least gives us greater options to target Willamette bound spring Chinook. It could be a fun March! As far as how long we may get into April, of course how the run is performing and how explosive catch rates are, it may not get past April 4th is run/catch modeling is accurate.
There’s a lot riding on Congressman Mike Simpson’s proposal to remove the 4 lower Snake River Dams. Hopefully you saw our E-blast on that last week. HERE’S a great story to entice you to act.
Maybe even more exciting was the coho prediction that has come out of the agency’s modeling. Although it’s hard to enter into these numbers with copious amounts of optimism, 1.6 million returning coho, even if it’s half right, should provide for some pretty fun opportunity this fall. HERE is more detail, as provided to the Rec Advisors in our packet yesterday (Wednesday).
Lewis and Washougal Rivers Fishing Report—A few anglers continue to fish for steelhead in the Lewis River, although the hatchery run is over. Wild steelhead are biting in the river, and should be available until the end of March. Most of the fishing has been centered around the hatchery and the reach down to the golf course, but there has been some effort in the river from the hatchery to Merwin Dam as well. The river is in good condition and some wild steelhead are being caught. Even though the hatchery run is pretty much over, a few clipped steelhead may still show.
Bobber and bait or jigs have been effective, and in the low, cold water, beads are a good bet. Pulling plugs is another good method on the Lewis.
The Washougal River did lift a little last week but has dropped again, and that makes the fishing difficult. There are plenty of anglers targeting the river, and even though the river has been low, a few fish are still being caught. Most of the public access is in the lower three miles of the river, and the steelhead have been moving through the river quickly following a freshet. The steelhead have been biting drifted gears and bobber and jigs or bait.
The Guides Forecast—The Lewis River has been holding at a little above 11 feet but was lifted to almost 13 feet recently. It is expected to drop back to about 12 feet by Sunday. Anglers should find excellent river conditions but the coming cold and snow may mean a tough bite. In conditions like these, lighter lines and smaller baits can make a difference, but the offerings must be right on the fish’s nose. In cold water steelhead will not move far or fast to take a bait. Beads, jigs, and small drifted Corkies should be the go-to baits in the cold water. Look for them in the deeper, slower holes, instead of the faster runs and glides, but steelhead often do not follow the rules, and may be found just about anywhere. Anglers might want to search the water below Merwin Dam, since many of the wild fish are headed for this stretch. The reach favors boat anglers, and offers little bank access, except at the Merwin Dam deadline.
Later this month the WDFW should be finalizing their seasons for spring Chinook, and the Lewis is expected to get a decent return. The river could actually be open for springers this year, so keep an eye on the WDFW website to see if a Lewis river springer season is approved.
The Washougal will probably not be a great bet for steelhead this weekend with low water and cold temps expected to slow the bite. Lighter lines and smaller baits could help entice a few biters, and anglers should not cover the water as fast as usual. Cold-water steelhead move slow and won’t move far to take a bait, so the patient angler will have an advantage this weekend.
Salmon Creek Fishing Report—Anglers continue to have a tough time getting steelhead to bite in the creek, with the action rated as poor. This month should see more fish pull in, although low, cold water will make the fishing tough until the next freshet arrives. Anglers do well here by casting metallic pink 3.5 Maglips, jigs, and beads or bait. Spinners will work, too. Look for the fishing to pick up after the cold weather passes, but some good rain is needed to really get the bite going.
Merwin and Yale Lakes Fishing Report—Kokanee fishing in both lakes is rated as fair to good, with John Thompson of Sportsman’s Warehouse in Vancouver, (360) 604-8000), reporting that some anglers are getting limits every time out, but others are struggling. With the fish still holding in the upper water column, flat-line trolling has been the way to go. As has been the case all winter, pink and orange hootchies are fishing well when tipped with yellow corn. Other colors and baits have been effective at times.
The Guides Forecast—Look for the fishing to be a little tough this weekend, if anglers can even get their boats to the lake. Heavy snow may make access, especially to Yale, a little difficult. High winds are also expected at times along with the cold and snow, which will make fishing conditions less than optimal. There is no reason to think that the effective baits and colors will change, but anglers may have a tough time trolling in the difficult conditions. The weather and conditions should be a bit better after this weekend.
Local Lakes Fishing Report–Klineline Pond was stocked with 1,500 catchable rainbows and Battle Ground Lake was stocked with 3,000 catchables on February 1. Both are fishing well. Lacamas Lake is also giving up some trout.
Cowlitz and Kalama Rivers Fishing Report—The Cowlitz is still fishing slow, although it is getting better bit by bit. Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 52 winter-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator. In last week’s creels above the I-5 Bridge, 53 bank rods kept four steelhead, while 14 boats/49 rods kept five steelhead and released one steelhead. Dave Mallahan of Dave’s Guide Service (360-201-9313), reported that he was able to get a few biters this week, but he felt like the sea lions massed at the mouth of the river may be slowing the steelhead from moving into the upper river. While he did not fish on Saturday, he did check the fishery, and he noted that about 40 boats only managed to land about a dozen steelhead. His fish came while bobber-dogging with beads and bait, and he said that bobber-dogging was out-fishing side-drifting and other methods by about 10 to one.
The lower river was in decent shape, and it has drawn a lot of effort lately, but the fishing below the I-5 Bridge is slower than in the upper river. In the lower river WDFW creel surveyors noted that 149 bank rods kept four steelhead. 3 boats/7 rods kept one steelhead–not exactly hot fishing. Once again, bobber-dogging has been the go-to method.
The Kalama is fishing a little better, and according to Thompson, anglers floating the lower river are doing pretty good. Just about anywhere from the rough launch at the red barn down to the Modrow Bridge was producing fish. The lower river lends itself to pulling plugs, fishing bobber and bait or jigs, and bead fishing is drawing bites. The river has been in good condition for drift boats lately, and bank anglers down low are taking a few fish, too. However, for bank anglers the upper river and the canyon are better bets, simply because there is not the boat traffic. Up in the canyon bobber fishing works well, but anglers can also take fish with hardware and by drift fishing.
You can check the full Tacoma Power Cowlitz River Report HERE. You can check river flows and lake levels, including for Mayfield and Riffe Lakes, HERE
The Guides Forecast–River flows at Mayfield Dam were approximately 11,600 cubic feet per second on Monday, water visibility is 6 feet and the water temperature is 43.9 F. The river is expected to remain at that same level at least into early next week. Anglers should find good conditions, although steelhead numbers are not climbing as expected. February usually sees a good jump in steelhead numbers, but that has not happened yet. Whether the fish are staying out of the river because of the high numbers of sea lions in the lower stretches, or because of a lack of recent freshets is a matter for conjecture, but the numbers should start rising soon.
Winter weather advisories are in effect for this weekend, with snow expected down to the lower elevations. Mallahan said that the colder temps could make the bite a little tough, but he also does well sometimes in cold conditions. Wind and weather could make boat control an issue, though. Anglers need to take care when boating in the severe cold.
The Cowlitz at Kelso is expected to stay at right around 15 feet, so weekend anglers will find good conditions in the lower sections. Of more concern is the weather, and the number of sea lions. With a winter advisory set for the weekend anglers may find winter conditions that make fishing tough. Still, there are steelhead in the lower river, so anglers will not be wasting their time.
The sea lions are following a pilot run of smelt in the Cowlitz. Commercial catches in the Columbia are not strong enough for managers to think about holding a sport smelt dip yet, but it is still early and things could change. Managers are also watching Covid case numbers in Cowlitz County, and are worried about crowds on the river bank spreading the disease. The WDFW will sit down with Cowlitz County health officials if the numbers of smelt rise, and will decide whether it is safe enough to allow a sport dip. Stay tuned to The Guides Forecast for more information.
The Kalama River should fish well this weekend, but the cold weather could make the bite tough and fishing conditions could be difficult. Still, the Kalama seems to be fishing better than most other SW Washington tribs right now, so anglers could do well fishing both the lower and upper river. Bank anglers might want to fish up high, and boat anglers can look to any reach below the red barn.
Local Lakes Fishing Report—Kress Lake and horseshoe Lake are both fishing well for trout and excess steelhead. A few trout are biting at Mayfield Lake, and Riffe Lake is still fishing well for coho.
Columbia River Gorge
Rowland and Icehouse Lake are both fishing well for trout, and a few of the big broodstock fish are biting, too. Bait fished along the bottom has been the best method at both lakes.
2 thoughts on “Southwest Washington Fishing Update and Forecast”
I am very happy to have subscribed to this. What a great job of giving information and updates. Keep up the great work!
Thanks for your kind words!
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