Anglers Still Waiting for Arrival of Springers

By The Chronicle

The fishing on the Cowlitz River is hit and miss, with most reports not all that encouraging.

“Some days the bite comes on for a while, then other days no bites at all,” said Tracey Borsom of Fish Country, Inc. of Ethel. “We did see some nice steelhead being taken this week, but it’s just not red hot. We watched a guide come in last night (Saturday) at Barrier Dam with four steelhead and said they missed a few more. He was side drifting eggs and doing pretty well, but we didn’t see anyone else from the bank or boats do any good on Sunday.”

Charles McElroy, a sporting goods clerk at Sunbirds Shopping Center in Chehalis, agreed the fishing is not on this week due to the heavy rains and snowmelt.

McElroy got a report of a fisherman spending six hours on the Cowlitz Monday between Blue Creek and Barrier Dam with no luck. A check of about 100 boats and 25 bank anglers found only four fish — all steelhead. McElroy has heard of some spring Chinook being caught, but only from third-hand rumors.

Farther down on the Columbia River above Cathlamet, McElroy knows a fisherman with river property. For four days, about 40 friends spent their time plunking off the bank. They landed only four springers, although they did average about 18 pounds.

McElroy said the Columbia River is still too cold, about 39 degrees, for the fish to go on the bite. Boaters are marking fish, but until the temperatures rise another three degrees or so, don’t expect a bumper crop.

Perhaps the best spot, McElroy said, would be the tried and true upper Cowlitz above Blue Creek where visibility isn’t horrendous.

McElroy advises fishermen get their gear in shape and wait a week for better conditions and the end of the snowpack that melts into the Chehalis, Newaukum and Cowlitz rivers. Another possible spot to try is on the Columbia above the mouth of the Kalama on the Washington state side.

The expected bad news is there will not be a season on the Chehalis for springers this year, McElroy said.

Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife specializing in Southwest Washington, was a bit more upbeat.

He said some fishermen are doing “pretty well” for steelhead and spring Chinook, most notably at the mouth of the Toutle River near the trout hatchery. He did call it, however, “hit or miss” fishing. On the Columbia, Hymer characterized the fishing as “limping along” with some nice-sized springers when you do land one.

He said fishing the Columbia in the Vancouver area has some catching five-year-old springers in the 18- to 20-pound range.

A check of boaters on the Columbia had one springer for every 17 rods off of boats, and only one springer out of 400 bank anglers checked.

Hymer said it is too early to predict a good or bad springer run, but that some will end up catching the tasty, oily, fatty, bright five-year-old springers in the 30-pound range in the upcoming weeks.

Trout and Lingcod
Both McElroy and Borsom said Riffe Lake is a waste of time, unless you don’t want to clean fish. Mayfield Lake continues to offer up decent numbers of trout, and Offut Lake, if the weather breaks, should be worth a few worms, as should Swofford Pond.

Even lingcod fishing off the coast is a bust due to choppy water that keeps the charter boat fleet away when waves get into the recent six- to eight-feet range, McElroy said.