Guide Shane Magnuson and friend with a recently caught Drano Lake spring Chinook
Photo by Shane Magnuson
Kalama and Klickitat Rivers still offer springers, and Drano Lake reopened today. The bite is improving. Sturgeon are biting in the Columbia, and the first summer steelhead are trickling into local rivers. Some local lakes have slowed for trout amid spring turnovers.
Vancouver Metro Area
Two rivers and Drano Lake remain open for spring Chinook in SW Washington. Expect plenty of company if you go to the Kalama or Drano. Low water is also affecting the bite in most rivers. Sturgeon retention is open on the big river, and the bite should get better as the month progresses.
A few summer steelhead are showing in the local tribs, but not enough yet to get excited about.
Spring lake turnovers have hurt the trout fishing in some local lakes, although warm water fisheries, especially for panfish and walleye, are still doing well. Anglers are eagerly awaiting the snow melting enough to get into the high-country lakes for trout.
Salmon and Steelhead Anglers Still Side-lined, Sturgeon Fishing is Challenging
Columbia River Fishing Report – With salmon and steelhead seasons still on hold, anglers remain focused on sturgeon, and catches aren’t impressive.
Recent reports indicate that the action has picked up slightly from the opener, but some guides are postponing their trips in hopes for better times ahead.
Estuary anglers are plying the waters in all the usual locations but action is best above Tongue Point. Most boats are struggling for numbers, anglers consider a 4 fish day (a rare keeper, mostly undersize) “pretty good action.” One guide reported that both local sand shrimp and small anchovies are available, shrimp tend to do best in the early season.
This was to be expected, but as waters warm and sturgeon become more evident in the estuary, action will certainly pick up, but it may be another few openers before one can expect a reasonable chance.
Meanwhile, as we sit sidelined, spring Chinook continue to pour over Bonneville Dam, with another spike happening as we speak. Following some mediocre passage days (yeah, that worried me too) earlier this week, numbers are on the climb again so let’s hope for a strong spike during what has become the peak passage days as of late.
Although this is just my theory, it seems that the reason the run timing on the Columbia may have shifted several weeks in recent years is that the adult springers just can’t take the long, warm summer water temperatures they are subjected to under the current weather scheme. To over-summer in the watershed, spring Chinook need deep, cool pools and water temperatures have just been too warm (lethal) in recent years. Many adults succumb to warm-water disease, compromising the future of the run. For this reason, they remain in the estuary or ocean for longer periods of time, where cooler temperatures prevail during the summer months. I can’t say we’re headed in that direction again this year, but it sure seems probable, making the summer Chinook fishery in the estuary a pretty attractive option. We’ll certainly report on that when the next opener takes place, sometime in June.
The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is slated to meet on Monday, after taking a pass on last Monday, based on models that TAC members didn’t have a lot of confidence in. We’ll see what they say next week. In the meantime, keep watching those numbers and if sturgeon interests you, you’ll need some practice to figure out where they are hiding.
After just a few shad past Bonneville Dam, the facility saw a 302 fish day on Wednesday. The shad run on the Columbia peaks about 3 weeks later than the Willamette, but it’s underway although one may not expect explosive catches for a another week or so.
The Guide’s Forecast – Sturgeon is about the only viable option on the mainstem Columbia, and that’s far from exciting this early in the season. You’ll have to hunt for them, making the reach above Tongue Point a priority if you’re serious about it. Keepers will be hard to come by, but hey, at least it’s an opportunity.
The minus tide series this weekend will bode well for good current for anglers. That keeps the sturgeon moving and enables fish to move up on the flats, where they are most likely to feed on sand shrimp and freshwater clams. Keep in mind that the best opportunity takes place on the beginning of outgoing tide and the first part of the flood. That’s when fish tend to move on and off the shallow flats the most and this feeding regime slows as the tide does.
Sand shrimp will likely produce the best results, but smelt and to a lesser degree, anchovies may be a good idea to bring along as well. Jason at Astoria Bait and Tackle is a great resource for bait this year, he’s located on the east side of Astoria and you can reach them at (503) 741-1407. Be sure to order your bait BEFORE 3:00 p.m., the day before you fish!
We’ll keep you posted on mainstem salmon and steelhead when we have news!
Lewis and Washougal Rivers Fishing Report—The Lewis River is giving up a few summer steelhead, according to John Thompson of Sportsman’s Warehouse in Vancouver, (360-604-8000). However, there are not a lot of them yet. A few springers are falling for bait, but spring Chinook retention has closed for the year. Once the hatchery gets its brood fish the season may reopen, but that is by no means a sure thing.
The summer fish are taking bait such as salmon eggs or sand shrimp, but don’t forget the coon tail shrimp. Other good bets include pulling plugs, and the fish are also taking drifted baits and jigs. The few fish already caught were mostly found near the hatchery, but some anglers in the lower river are plunking.
The Washougal is terribly low and clear, and there have been no reports yet of summer steelhead. There should be fish showing in better numbers next month, but some rain is needed.
The Guides Forecast—The Lewis river has been running at about the 10.5-foot stage, and is expected to stay at about that level all week. Conditions in the river are good, but the best bite for summer steelhead will probably not arrive until next month. Spring Chinook has closed for the year. Its still unknown how strong the summer steelhead run will be, but the fish are the same year-class as the winter steelhead that came back this year. If that run is any indication, anglers may have a tough time finding summer fish this year.
The fish will congregate from the Lewis River Golf Course up to the hatchery once they do show, and anglers will find biters by fishing bait, both below a bobber or fished with divers. Jigs are also a perennial favorite, and plugs will find a few fish, too.
Until rains bring the Washougal River up, expect the summer steelhead to either not enter the river, or if they do, look for them in the deepest holes of the lowest sections. Bobber and jigs or bait should take the fish once they arrive. Unfortunately, there is no rain expected until next week.
Merwin and Yale Lakes Fishing Report—According to Stacie Kelsey with the WDFW Inland Fisheries, the two lakes must have turned over recently, and that has slowed the bite. With the water mixing from top to bottom, the schools have been bouncing around in different depths. Anglers are having to work to find the best depth, which has run anywhere from 20 to 60 feet. Once that magic depth has been found some anglers are getting their fish. Trolling dodgers or flashers with hootchies and bait has been the best bet.
Tiger Muskies are waking up from their winter sleep, and are feeding voraciously on just about anything big that resembles a fish. Try large spinner baits, plugs, or swim baits.
The Guides Forecast—With warm weather arriving the bite and the lake should eventually stabilize. It may still take a week or two for that to happen, and in the meanwhile, anglers will probably continue to have to work to find the best depth. The high sun should also keep the fish on the deep side, especially in the mid-day. There is no reason to believe that trolling with dodgers and bait will not take the fish, once the best depth has been established. Look for plenty of competition, especially on Merwin.
The big tiger muskies should stay on the bite all spring, and as the water warms that should improve. Look to the lower sections of the lake to start, but anywhere the schools of pikeminnow or kokanee hold you should be able to find the muskies nearby.
Local Lakes Fishing Report—Both Battle Ground Lake and Klineline Pond were some of the best lakes for trout over the last week, with some other waters slowing. Anglers should do well at both lakes until the summer heat arrives, which could happen fairly soon with the unseasonable weather we have had recently.
Buzz Ramsey took this brooder rainbow trout on the trout opening day at Rowland Lake. The fish took a Spinfish in 2.0. Photo by Terry Otto
Cowlitz and Kalama Rivers Fishing Report—The Cowlitz has really slowed for steelhead the past two weeks, as the winter fish are done, and few summer fish have arrived. Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 169 winter-run steelhead adults, 60 spring Chinook adults, 18 spring Chinook jacks, but only 11 summer-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator. The fishing pressure has really dropped off, too. Above the I-5 Bridge 23 bank rods had no catch. Three boats/seven rods had no catch. Below the I-5 Bridge, 41 bank rods had no catch. 1 boat/2 rods had no catch. Anglers are reminded that spring Chinook retention is closed this year on the Cowlitz.
The Kalama River is fishing fair for spring Chinook, but competition is fierce with most other options closed to springers. In the most recent WDFW creel survey, 61 bank rods had no catch. 28 boats/61 rods kept four Chinook, one jack and released one Chinook and one steelhead. Thompson did report that anglers are now finding some springers in the middle sections as well as the lower river miles. With the river as low as it is the fish are not moving through the system very fast. There have been as of yet no reports of catches up in the canyon area. Bait such as salmon eggs or sand shrimp has been the best offering, either fished with divers or below bobbers.
The guides Forecast—River flows at Mayfield Dam were approximately 6,070 cubic feet per second on Monday. Flows have already dropped to about 5,100 CFS, and are expected to stay at about that level through the weekend. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 48.2F. Fishing will probably remain very slow over the next week, even though river conditions are excellent. With so few summer steelhead showing as of yet, and spring Chinook retention closed, fishing will be poor. Fishing pressure will probably remain low for the next week, too.
The summer steelhead should start to show in better numbers in the weeks ahead, but with the winter run as poor as it was, and with the summer fish from the same year-class, few anglers are expecting a really good summer run. However, the Cowlitz did perform better than most other tribs for winter fish, so a decent run of summers is not out of the question.
Lower river anglers will probably find a few summer fish to catch this weekend, but as in the upper river, fishing will probably be very slow.
The Kalama River should fish fairly well this weekend, although competition could be significant. Low water continues to slow the fish’s migration upstream, but with recent reports finding springers in the middle sections, the fish are moving up some. This weekend anglers should find the fish in the reaches above and below the Modrow Bridge. With low water, look for the fish in the deepest holes. Remember that the first drift boats out in the morning will get a good shot at the best water. Late comers may have to settle for less productive stretches. Bank anglers down low will have to contend with heavy boat traffic as well.
Bait is the deal for the springers here, with salmon eggs, coon tail shrimp, and sand shrimp being preferred baits. Fish them with a diver or under a bobber.
A few summer steelhead may show in the river, too. These will fall for bait, or a wide selection of other offerings, including hardware, drifted corkies, or bobber and jigs.
Local Lakes Fishing Report—Trout fishing has slowed some in Kress, Horseshoe, and other lowland lakes, although anglers are still getting some fish. Crappie and yellow perch are biting at Silver Lake, and Riffe Lake continues to produce good catches of coho. Crappie are o biting at Swofford Pond. A few big trout continue to be caught at Carlisle Lake. Tiger muskies are biting well in Mayfield Lake.
Columbia River Gorge
Drano Lake Fishing Report—The lake has reopened for spring Chinook, starting today. Managers reported that the hatchery has the fish it needs for egg take, so the decision to reopen the lake was made yesterday.
Anglers were doing pretty well right up until the closure. The last creel survey had 15 bank rods with no catch. 116 boats/336 rods kept 86 Chinook and released two Chinook. According to guide Shane Magnuson of Upper Columbia Guide Service, (509) 630-5433, the best bite before the closure was on prawn spinners, and the main lake had not been producing very well. The lake had been very busy, and will likely continue to be so until the fishing slows.
Anglers may keep two salmonids per day, of which one may be a Chinook.
The Guides Forecast--Fishing was good right before the closure, and fishing should continue to be good. With the lake closed for a few days, anglers might find a good bite. Anglers are reminded that the lake is closed to sportfishing on Wednesdays.
Klickitat River Fishing Report—Anglers are getting a few spring Chinook, but fishing is still poor overall. According to the latest WDFW creel survey, 28 bank rods kept three Chinook and released four jacks. The river is expecting about 1,000 springers this year. Carl Coolidge runs a shuttle service on the Klickitat, and offers a daily fishing report on the Klickitat Canyon market website, and he strongly suggests anglers call the Klickitat Canyon Market (509) 369-4400 before heading out to fish to see if the river is in good condition.
Local Lakes Fishing Report—trout fishing slowed some this week at Icehouse Lake and Rowland Lake, although bluegill are biting very well in Rowland.
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