By The Chronicle
The mark of a skilled hunter or angler is a boatload of patience, and although there are some worthwhile prospects, the real fun is still a couple of weeks off. Relax a bit, will ya?
“April really marks the start of the new year for fishing and hunting,” said Joe Stohr, deputy director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Some winter fisheries are still going strong, but the annual cycle is beginning again with a new year of outdoor activities.”
Sunday marks the beginning of April and by mid-month, the Cowlitz River should start kicking out bright spring Chinook salmon in big numbers.
That will be followed by a bevy of opening days throughout April leading up to the “Super Bowl” of fishing — opening day of lowland lakes trout season on April 28 — which attracts upwards of 300,000 fishermen on that traditional day, according to the WDFW.
Other upcoming opening days are another morning razor clam dig on the coast April 7-9, the expanded lingcod fishing to Neah Bay April 16, and even a statewide turkey hunt for youth 15 and under April 7-8, followed by the general spring turkey hunt from April 15 to May 31.
For those willing to brave the high seas and our recent gusts of wind, skilled Westport anglers are getting their limits of lingcod, although they report that getting a limit of seabass is real work.
Here in Southwest Washington, the rivers are still a bit cold — about 42 degrees — this week for the fish to bite, which is similar to conditions last year when the fish run came in about mid-April.
“Like last year, the spring Chinook run has been late to arrive – and for many of the same reasons,” said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist. “Not only has the Columbia been running high and cold, but all that rain in recent weeks has muddied up the water below the Willamette and Cowlitz rivers.”
Another factor is that most of the fish running this year are four-year-olds, which tend to arrive a bit later.
But when the fish do decide to migrate upriver, it could be a season to remember. The pre-season forecast called for a return of 314,200 spring Chinook, which if it occurs, would be the fourth-largest run on record.
“It’s going to be a really good year, just like last year,” said Charles McElroy, who mans the sporting goods desk at Sunbird Shopping Center in Chehalis.
This upcoming weekend, despite being a bit early for the big run, still offers a decent chance to net a nice hatchery steelhead on the Cowlitz, as long as the rains don’t come down too thick in the next few days, said McElroy.
“It’s really fishing good for steelhead, even though the water is a bit high,” McElroy said. “There’s a ton of fish from Longview to the Barrier Dam.”
Action is also starting to hit on the Chehalis and Skookumchuck rivers as they are finally starting to “green up,” McElroy said.
“If it doesn’t rain too much in the next few days, and it’s not supposed to, it should be good this weekend,” he said.
The fishing has been slow on the Columbia River. McElroy described it in baseball terms: “No hits, no runs and no errors” this past weekend. One Columbia River angler said he’s been out 10 times so far this year, with nothing to bring home.
Area lakes offer some opportunities for the trout aficionado. Try Riffe, Offutt or Merwin lakes, McElroy said.
Eastern Washington Fishing
If you are thinking of heading east over the mountains, there are a few places to consider as many of the lakes that opened March 1 are kicking out some nice trout, said John Whalen, a fish manager for WDFW.
Those lakes include Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County, and Amber, Liberty, Medical and Downs lakes near Spokane, Lake Roosevelt is another good bet.
Lakes in Eastern Washington opening up on April 1 include most in Adams and Grant counties, which always produce a few lunkers.
“As always, the weather plays a major role in fishing success on the April Fool’s Day opener,” said Chad Jackson, a WDFW fish biologist in Moses Lake.
With spring beginning to bloom, the great outdoors offers a bundle of spectacular opportunities for wildlife viewing this time of year.
Gray whales are being sighted around Whidbey and Camano Islands as they migrate from Mexico to the Arctic Ocean.
For birders, you can take in the Olympic Peninsula Birdfest in Sequim this weekend offering birding trips, boat tours and other activities. Or you can head just south to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and take in some turkey vultures, along with various songbirds and even the majestic sandhill cranes.
The main rule: with temperatures starting to heat up and Mother Nature beginning to stir, it is time to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors!